Biological Fairness?

Image by elizabeth lies.

I have suffered from persistent fatigue in recent months. Fatigue… the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate 3.3 million Americans suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome. It is just one example of hundreds of unseen disabilities people deal with. In my case I’m tired all the time; I fear people will think I am lazy.

I have suspected that my fatigue has been related to long-covid. The CDC says about one in five people who’ve had COVID (or about 7.5 percent of the total adult population in the US) experience symptoms such as constant exhaustion for more than three months after contracting the illness.

In diagnostic evaluations my doctor ordered labs to check my testosterone levels, and they are low—comparable to what a man 25 years older than me would have. Now, forgetting the challenges with healthcare and insurance coverage in the US, I assume at some point I will receive treatment to boost my testosterone back to normal levels; is that fair?

In my adolescent years I was a competitive bike rider, but I was not a winner. One classmate could grow a full beard in seventh grade. He’d had a condition that was treated with anabolic steroids, and I never made excuses when he beat me. Should he have been forbidden from competing?

What is the question of fairness when the question is not about winning or losing but just having the chance or capacity to participate?

Is it hypocritical that many of the people leading the charge to “defend women’s sports” do little or nothing to defend women’s paychecks? The discussion is over a hypothetical advantage that a young transgender girl might have. Legislators are working hard to make sure that none of these young girls can participate.

To date, in 2024, there are 539 pieces of anti-trans legislation that have been put forward in 41 states, legislation that seeks to block trans people from receiving basic healthcare, education, legal recognition, and the right to publicly exist—it isn’t just about sports.

These same legislators have not worked to protect the fairness contained in Title IX, the legislation enacted 50 years ago to equalize the playing field for girls and women in educational programs and sports.

In the 2022 NCAA swimming championships, Olympic silver medalist swimmer Erica Sullivan competed against Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer, and proudly supported Thomas:

“Right now, the world is facing a multitude of crises that require our attention, time, and energy. Millions of people in Ukraine and around the world are fighting for survival…What we need now more than ever is compassion and to come together as a global community. And yet this is the time [when], here in the US, we are wasting resources and finding ourselves divided over a question that should have a simple answer: Should the transgender community be included and treated equally in all areas of life, including sports? Yes.”

The culture wars are such a poor misdirection of energy and resources. I hope more of us can listen to the compassion and grace of people like Erica Sullivan.

Nobody needs extra obstacles blocking their quality of life, that is the fairness I am most concerned with.

Wim Laven has a PhD in International Conflict Management, he teaches courses in political science and conflict resolution, and is on the Executive Boards of the International Peace Research Association and the Peace and Justice Studies Association.