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There have been numerous articles in media over transgender women competing in women sports, and debating if this is fair with women whose birth sex was female.

I know there are some studies, like Race Times for Transgender Athletes, that show that after lower levels of testosterone follows a loss of muscle mass and bone density, and thus their athletic capacity is diminished.

I'm not sure if this loss of muscle mass and bone density is enough, or if there are other factors that could still provide an advantage. Perhaps the possible advantages vary for each sport.

So, is there evidence about the possible advantages of transgender women athletes over cisgender ones? Lets limit the question to sports where men have clear measurable advantages over women on average.

We should also specify how far into transition we are talking about, as pointed out in the comments. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) current rules are probably the best reference for how far in transition they must be to be allowed to compete in the women's category:

Those who transition from male to female are eligible to compete in the female category under the following conditions:

  1. The athlete has declared that her gender identity is female. The declaration cannot be changed, for sporting purposes, for a minimum of four years.

  2. The athlete must demonstrate that her total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to her first competition (with the requirement for any longer period to be based on a confidential case-by-case evaluation, considering whether or not 12 months is a sufficient length of time to minimize any advantage in women’s competition).

  3. The athlete's total testosterone level in serum must remain below 10 nmol/L throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the female category.

  4. Compliance with these conditions may be monitored by testing. In the event of non-compliance, the athlete’s eligibility for female competition will be suspended for 12 months.

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    @DevSolar Would it really be better to create a question for each sport, those questions nearly identical apart from the specific sport? – Pablo Feb 25 at 16:27
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    @Pablo - Gymnastics? Seriously? Men's and women's gymnastics are rather different. Male gymnastics focuses on body strength, particularly upper body strength, with three events (parallel bars, pommel horse, and rings) that solely rely on upper body strength. Female gymnastics has a reduced emphasis on upper body strength and enhanced emphases on agility, grace, and style. While the latter might well be a gender norm issue, the reduced emphasis on upper body strength arguably is not. – David Hammen Feb 25 at 18:24
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    What type of transgender women? Trans women who haven't done anything to transition probably perform similar to men (and the question of how the best men and women do in sports has already been answered here). The question of whether trans women who have started transitioning is more interesting (although the answer may depend on how far through the process they are). – Laurel Feb 26 at 1:32
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    @Pablo It might help to focus things if you could select a very specific claim and quote it. I mean, this is an interesting issue that we could have a huge discussion about, but since such huge discussions don't really fit the StackExchange model, it'd help to have a specific instance of the broader claim for people to focus their analysis on. The exact claim you select will provide a context that'll provide a basis in which otherwise ambiguous concepts would be more well-defined. – Nat Feb 26 at 5:43
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    @tim a completely and utterly average man is stronger than about 98% of all women. A fairly average kinda-couch-potato man has pretty good chances of still being stronger than a woman who trains extensively.(note bar for female athletes in the linked post) skeptics.stackexchange.com/a/39372/23087 – Murphy Feb 26 at 13:42
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This is more an issue of what gender and sex mean in sports, rather than an issue specific to transgender athletes.

For example, many sports bodies, including the IOC as noted in the question, require transgender women to maintain a testosterone level below a certain mark in order to compete. However, cisgender woman Caster Semenya has an unusually high testosterone level that exceeds some of these limits anyway. There is an on-going debate about what the appropriate level is.

It has been suggested that women wishing to complete should all have to meet a testosterone level limit, but consider the implication of requiring naturally gifted athletes to medicate. For example, should a particularly tall 15 year old boy who wishes to play basketball have to take growth stunting drugs to make things "fair" for other more average height boys?

So to answer the question, it depends on the sport, on the individual and on what, if any, medication and surgery is involved. But more realistically, some sports may have to consider some other kind of division system unrelated to gender, such as weight divisions.

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    You might not have seen it, but the question has been clarified to specify that the OP is asking about transgender women who are allowed to compete in Olympic Women's events. – Laurel Feb 26 at 16:44
  • @Laurel thanks, I didn't see that. – dont_shog_me_bro Feb 26 at 16:46
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    You jump from professional level to highschool. Some might consider that a category error. You also conflate what nature has done with what doctors might do. That's a strawman. No one's suggesting that anyone be handicapped because nature gave them a second helping. People are suggesting that nature's helpings be a higher authority than anything else, however. – fredsbend Feb 26 at 21:31
  • @fredsbend both of those are completely missing the point. It doesn't matter what level it's at, the issue is should people be required to undergo non-essential medical procedures to reach some arbitrary limit that defines the "female athlete" category, regardless of their status as trans- or cis-gender. When framed like that it seems absurd, hence the need for a better solution. – dont_shog_me_bro Feb 27 at 9:37

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protected by Sklivvz Feb 26 at 9:47

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