In a dramatic defeat to the biggest trolls on the internet, the Boston marathon has announced that transgender runners will be able to compete on Monday, April 16, as their self-identified gender.
The policy isn’t new. According to the Boston Athletic Association, the race has had the policy in place for years.
What is new is the heated debate around it, following an article in Canadian Running magazine profiling trans women competing in the Boston Marathon as their identified gender.
At least five openly trans women will compete as women in Monday’s race. The organizers only ask that runners compete as the same gender for which they qualified.
Critics have raised concerns that testosterone gives trans women runners a substantial physical advantage.
In 2016, the Olympics changed their guidelines, allowing trans women to participate as their identified gender as long as their testosterone levels were under certain required levels.
Still, advocates stress that hormone replacement therapy reduces whatever hormonal advantage trans women may have. By increasing estrogen levels and blocking testosterone, advocates say trans women experience a decrease in muscle mass and an increase in fat storage — reducing overall athleticism.
Even trans athletes who don’t undergo hormone replacement therapy don’t necessarily have an advantage, the argument goes. Testosterone may increase athleticism — but it doesn’t make everyone an athlete.
Trans runners for the Boston Marathon will not have to have undergone hormone replacement therapy in order to compete.
The Boston Marathon will ask participants to show identification, however, a struggle for some trans and non-binary folks who struggle to have their government IDs changed to reflect their accurate gender identities. Organizers stressed that they’d handle the disparities on a case-by-case basis, with fairness and inclusion as core operating principles.
“Should such a situation arise, we would make every effort to address it in a manner intended to be fair to all concerned, with a strong emphasis on inclusion,” organizers told NPR.
New York and Chicago have similar trans-inclusive policies in place. Still, the Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest running marathon and one of the most well known internationally. It’s a leader in the field and carries the most symbolic weight.
As a New Yorker, I hate to say this but — other cities, take note, and follow Boston’s lead.