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2021
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The Washington Post: FAQ, What you need to know about transgender children

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By Samantha Schmidt

Transgender rights have once again emerged as a political flash point in America.

While President Biden signed an executive order expanding protections for LGBTQ people, Republican lawmakers have sought to roll back the rights of the transgender community — especially the rights of children. Across the country, conservative legislators have introduced and passed a wave of bills that would ban medical treatments for transgender children and restrict transgender students from playing in sports according to their gender identity.

Informed by medical guidelines, and interviews with doctors and experts, The Washington Post compiled answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about transgender young people.

What does it mean to be transgender?

Transgender is an umbrella term for anyone whose gender does not align with their sex assigned at birth. Cisgender is a term applied to people who are not transgender — people whose gender identity matches their assigned sex.

Gender identity is not the same thing as gender expression. For example, a cisgender woman might present in a more stereotypically “masculine” way but still identify as her female sex assigned at birth.

What research is available about transgender athletes and whether they have an advantage over cisgender athletes?

Across the country, more than half of U.S. states have introduced bills in 2021 that would bar transgender participation in school sports according to their gender identity. Many of these bills argue that transgender women and girls have a biological advantage over cisgender girls when competing in sports. An Idaho bill, which was signed into law in 2020 but has been stalled in court proceedings, argues that transgender girls and women have “denser, stronger bones” and “larger hearts, greater lung volume per body mass” and other characteristics that lawmakers claimed would give transgender women an athletic edge.

But studies of the performance of transgender athletes so far are limited and based on small, narrow samples that some researchers say cannot necessarily be applied to high school sports.

One study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2020 suggested that transgender women in the U.S. Air Force retained certain athletic advantages over cisgender female peers for about two years into hormone therapy. The researchers assessed the medical records and fitness tests of 29 transgender men and 46 transgender women from 2013 and 2018, reviewing the number of push-ups and sit-ups they could perform in a minute and the time required to run 1½ miles.

The study’s authors found that when it comes to muscle strength, after two years of hormone therapy “you can’t distinguish the performance of the trans women with the average performance of cis women in the Air Force,” said the study’s lead author, Timothy Roberts, director of the adolescent medicine training program at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, Mo. When it came to running times, the transgender women’s times did slow down but were still 12 percent faster on average than those of their cisgender female peers. But looking at the spread of run times among cisgender women, the transgender women were still slower than 9 percent of them.

“There’s natural variation in talent, there’s natural variation in testosterone levels,” Roberts said. “There’s never really been a level playing field.”

 

Read the full article via The Washington Post

Learn more about Gender Pathway Services at Children's Mercy