The New York Times reported on a lawsuit by a transgender woman, Lana Lawless, against the Ladies Professional Golf Association, which banned her from participating in the sport after she won the women's world championship in long-drive golf.
This move went against the trend among other sports organizations to create rules specifically regulating competition by trans competitors.
According to the Times, in 2004, the International Olympic Committee began allowing transgender people to compete if they have undergone reassignment surgery and at least two years of postoperative hormone-replacement therapy. Several other sports organizations followed suit, including the United States Golf Association, the Ladies Golf Union in Britain and the Ladies European Golf Tour.
The transwoman involved, Ms. Lawless, said that the move stemmed from prejudice. Renee Richards, who won her lawsuit against the US Tennis Association 25 years ago, weighed in with a contradictory message, saying that allowing transgender people to compete is problematic, but that Lawless should be allowed to compete.
The issue doesn't seem to affect transgender men, and my assumption is that is because transgender men are assumed to be weaker than other men, whereas transgender women are assumed to be stronger than other women. And yet, we haven't seen trans women sweeping the field in the Olympics or the other organizations that permit them to compete. I agree with Ms. Lawless that the issue is one of prejudice.
The LPGA changed its requirements to allow only competitors "female at birth."
Lawless, however, makes the point that, according to her birth certificate, she is a woman. "It doesn't say 'female-ish,' " Lawless said. "There is no such thing as born female. Either you're female, or you're not."
This points up the fact that the law is not consistent regarding change of sex. It can be recognized by one jurisdiction or governmental authority, and not by another. It can also be recognized differently for different purposes within the same jurisdiction or governmental authority.
The law in this area is a confusing mess.
But putting aside the issue of what the law is, the question remains what the law should be.
Are the "Ladies" of the Ladies Professional Golf Association a little out of step with reality? Or is it Ms. Lawless (and me, I might add).
Ultimately, the question is whether Ms. Lawless is a proper "lady." And that's less a legal or a medical question than it is a social question. Is the question here one of sex, or of gender?
As I have consistently argued, sex is not a stable construct, and it has both biological and gendered components. I believe that, given the specific facts I have gleaned about Ms. Lawless, she is female, and it doesn't matter whether she is a "lady," which is a gendered concept that has no place in the determination of sex segregation, in the few places it remains.
Or is the important thing, as a Sports Illustrated's Hot Clicks writer suggested, whether she looks enough like Lucy Lawless?
What do you think?
Full story from the New York Times here.