The regulatory body of the AFL has ruled to block male athlete Hannah Mouncey from competing against women in the first annual draft of the newly formed professional Women’s League.
Hannah, formerly Callum Mouncey, 27, previously competed on the Australian Handball team until 2015, when he came out publicly as transgender.
Transgender people strongly identify with sex stereotypes, generally those enforced on the opposite sex, which they believe constitute a core aspect of their personalities. In Callum’s case, this meant adopting a traditionally female name (Hannah), growing his hair to a more stereotypical female length, and taking an off-label cocktail of testosterone blockers combined with high dose estrogen in an attempt to achieve a male version of female secondary sex characteristics (breast growth, softer skin, etc.)
Hannah announced his intention to transfer to the women’s handball team, which he believed should admit him in deference to his strongly held identification with female sex stereotypes.
Callum wasn’t alone in his gender beliefs. Most people support a tradition of sex-stereotypical behaviors (Pink is for girls, Blue is for boys). And he was part of a popular burgeoning social trend: The Transgender Movement, which asserts that sex-stereotypical categories (femininity, masculinity) must be maintained by the premise that non-conformers are actually, in some way, reproductively different.
Fueled by social role anxieties wrought by the Feminist and Gay Rights movements -which either intentionally (the former) or not (the latter) destabilized traditional power relations between the sexes, the transgender ideal developed as a safety valve to prevent a potential wide-scale sex-role implosion and was implemented with every bit of fervor as the traditions themselves. Gender has never been more popular.
Before Hannah could follow through on his plan to compete against women on the handball team, something unusual happened: The Australian Women’s Football League.
Australian Football is not, as has been widely misreported, a form of soccer. It is a full contact, full body, tackle sport played with an oval ball similar to an American football. The ball is bounced, kicked and carried, and features repeated “toss ups” where the biggest, tallest players (called “Ruckers”) engage in one-on-one combat for control of the ball.
Australian Football (called “Footy”) is also unique in that it is wildly popular among both men and women, far more than soccer or any other sport. Fully half of the audience is female. Historians have found records dating as far back as 1876 of women and girls calling for a female football league, and local amateur women’s teams exist in many localities and are quite popular among both men and women. In 2013 the Australian Football League announced that a professional women’s division would be established in 2020, but the idea was so popular they launched it earlier than planned in 2017.
Callum Mouncey, now “Hannah”, saw the potential at succeeding in Footy that he never qualified for as a man among men. By competing against women, he could rise to the top echelon of elite Footy players in the most popular sport in Australia. He abandoned his plans to apply for the female handball team and joined a regional minor league women’s team in Canberra, announcing his intention to prepare for the first major league women’s draft. Unsurprisingly, at six-foot-two and 220 pounds of male musculature, Hannah displaced a female athlete, and under direction of the team’s male coach played as the team “Rucker”.
“I know I’m different and not necessarily in a good way or bad way, but I know I am going to be seen differently,” Mouncey said in an interview leading up to the draft.
Like many sports body regulators worldwide, the AFL adopted the International Olympic Committee’s guidelines for transgender male athletes who wish to compete against women based on their identification with women. Technically the IOC guidelines also apply to female athletes who identify with and wish to compete against males, but unlike the many male “transwomen” competing in elite female sport: no female athlete who identifies as transgender- even those who take testosterone injections- has yet been competitive amongst males in any high school, college, regional, national, or elite competition.
Accordingly, the IOC guidelines allow women to compete against males without restriction, regardless of testosterone or other doping measures, as long as they assert a strongly held identification with biologically male persons by the transgender ideal.
Male athletes, on the other hand, are required to subscribe to the transgender ideal but also provide proof that their testosterone levels fall in the low typical male range (10 nmol/l) for the duration of one year. (Normal testosterone levels for males are 10- 35 nmol/l. For females only 0.35- 2 nmol/l.)
The IOC adopted these guidelines arbitrarily, based on their political desire to support the transgender ideal. There is no science suggesting that decreased testosterone levels (or psychological identification!) in males creates parity among the sexes in athletic competition. Rather, males who identify as transgender, although a tiny minority, have exceeded in women’s sport, even at advanced ages: Women’s Golf Champion Lana Lawless, Women’s Fell Running Champion Lauren Jeska, Women’s Cycling Champion Kristen Worley, etc.
The IOC policy was largely informed by a Portland radiology technician named Joanna Harper (who is himself a male who competes against females as a distance runner) and a 2004 study of sixteen non-athlete males undergoing cross-sex transgender hormone treatment conducted by Dr. Louis Gooren, who implemented the treatments being studied. Gooran’s study was never replicated, but found that this tiny cohort after one year showed a decrease in red blood cells close to female levels, and also a decrease in male muscle mass, but one that did not drop to female levels. No further changes were noted after three years.
The study concluded:
“The question of whether reassigned M-F can fairly compete with women depends on what degree of arbitrariness one wishes to accept, keeping in mind, for instance, that similar blood testosterone levels in men have profoundly different biologic effects on muscle properties, rendering competition in sports intrinsically a matter of how nature endows individuals for this competition.”
Harper’s study [PDF] was conducted over seven years and involved a mere 8 subjects, all males who competed against women after testosterone blocking. Three of the runners were national champions against women, and two were highly placed but described as “sub elite”. The study compared race times before and after hormone treatment. The race times were self-selected and self-reported. The majority were unable to be confirmed. Two of the subjects were entirely anonymous internet respondents who refused to verify their status as real people, even when their privacy and anonymity was assured. Two of the subjects showed a reduction of race times in one instance that rendered their performance comparable to female competitors in that race. One subject vastly improved his race time over his time in the male category when he competed against women. The rest fell somewhere in the middle, but for different reasons.
Male subjects whose race time dropped seemed to have other issues:
“After transition, runner four began to experience a significant number of injuries which prevented [him] from training as rigorously as [he] previously had. It is not surprising that [his] results got worse as time went on. Runner five experienced both weight gain and a loss of motivation in the years after [his] transition. In fact [his] motivation declined to the point that [he] gave up racing not long after the submission of [his] results.
On the other hand, runner seven blossomed as a runner after transition. Eventually, [he] doubled [his] weekly training distance. [He] also lost approximately 10 kg of body mass after [he] started to train harder. It is not surprising that [his] times and age grade scores showed a subsequent improvement.”
These two tiny unrepeated studies/anonymous internet surveys of less than 25 subjects in total provide no verifiable science whatsoever, but comprise the sole and only data reviewed by the IOC before adopting a male inclusion policy in female athletics that was clearly based on the prioritization of the feelings of a minute number of males over the rights of the entire female population to compete against other women on a level playing field.
Above all else, women’s sports should exist to help men achieve their dreams. The female athlete that loses her spot to a male? Disposable. Welcoming men who non-conform to sex stereotypes of masculinity into male sports? Of course not. That is women’s work.
Mark Robinson of the Herald Sun described Hannah Mouncey as a “lost soul” whom women’s sports had disgracefully failed to save, which is the mission of women’s sport:
“The AFL pats itself on the back in its promotion of inclusion and diversity and love, but sadly for Mouncey she doesn’t qualify under those parameters.
Inclusion it seems is not for everyone and frankly that is a disgrace.
It is a confusing and sad situation because Mouncey has basic human rights.
You have to feel for her.
She doesn’t want to be the face for transgender people. All she wants to do is play footy.
Colleague Alistair Paton tweeted: “Can’t imagine how tough it would be to not fit neatly into society’s idea of what gender should be. We shouldn’t make it harder.”
Mouncey is currently a lost soul and the AFL hasn’t helped her, preferring to protect its competition instead.”
[bolding by me-GM]
Callum/Hannah Mounsy echoed this lost soul/redemption perspective in a tv interview ahead of the draft. The priority of women’s sports, the responsibility of women’s athletic leagues, is supporting males who subscribe to the transgender ideal.
“Sport really has to play a role in being accepting and supporting people through a transition because sport is unique in that it is, you know, especially men’s sport, a very masculine environment. It can be quite intimidating. And I was quite intimidated just coming out. Not intimidated… but just had no idea- I was really worried about how people would take it. But, uh, you know- they were fantastic. So I think sport really has a role to play in obviously providing support to its members and realizing just how much of an impact it can have, that each sporting organization can have , because it really can in many ways make their transition a success or a failure. Socially. And that’s a huge responsibility to have, and I think sports in general -they probably don’t know that’s a responsibility that they have, and the impact that they can have. I think the impact is the big thing. I think the responsibility to its members- I’m talking about all sports here- but it doesn’t quite understand the impact it can have on a person’s life who is transitioning. For me it was incredibly positive and had such a huge positive impact that I’ll be forever grateful for everyone involved in the sport, but it can have the exact same effect the other way. Which would be devastating.”
What would be devastating for women and girls is having their league undermined after over 150 years in the making, so that women can be battered by men in order to preserve the idea that men who want to be pretty and wear little black dresses are not actually male.
What would be devastating for women and girls is to have a society so utterly disregard them that they can’t even be centered in their own league after 150 years because some dudes have gender feels.
The AFL ended up overriding the scant, unsubstantiated IOC guidelines, for now, instead relying on existing Victorian Equality Opportunity and Human Rights Guidelines which allow for women to have their own sports on the basis of defense against unfair competition.
Footy for women, will not at this time, feature a male athlete battering women athletes who exist in the minds of many, to serve him.