CrossFit has a Trans Problem
Many of you who know me in real life (as in, not only as a blog writer) know that for about the last three years I have been doing CrossFit. To me, CrossFit is a way to stay healthy and maintain community. As a former rugby player, I needed something that made me feel excited about fitness and made me feel like a part of a team.
CrossFit has become so much more than I thought it would be. It has become my family, my church, my therapy, and my release. It has become the thing I do when I need to step outside my head and exercise some feelings while I exercise my body.
CrossFit keeps me sharp, makes me think, and challenges me. It also soothes me and inspires me. I get endless amounts of happiness and pride watching other people in my box (what we call CF gyms) conquer their own challenges.
But this relationship is only one way. My box is a CrossFit “affiliate,” which means it is independently owned and run and licenses the CrossFit name from CrossFit® Headquarters (“CrossFit® HQ”), run by the corporate brand CrossFit, Inc. and heavily affiliated with Reebok. My box, like all the others around the world, is affiliated with CrossFit® the brand only by name.
It is CrossFit® HQ that organizes and holds the CrossFit Games® , an annual competition that allows athletes from all over the world to match up against each other in a quest to earn the title as Fittest on Earth.
The competition begins each year with Phase 1, the CrossFit® Open, which is a 5-week series of workouts (“WODs”) designed to determine who is the best. At the end of the Open, the highest ranked athletes compete at the Regional level, and then advance to the CrossFit Games®. From February to July, a field of over 270,000 athletes compete to become one of only two people, a man and a woman, who are crowned “Fittest on Earth” at the Games.
My box and my local community have always been a rock of support during my transition. CrossFit® HQ, however, has not. You see, CrossFit® HQ doesn’t believe that I am a member of the community. CrossFit® does not believe that I should be able to compete in the Open (or Regionals or the Games) because I am transgender.
This is not news. In 2014, transgender athlete and powerlifter Chloie Jonssonsued CrossFit® HQ for its discriminatory policies. Jonsson, who transitioned over a decade before the controversy, sought to compete in the Open, but was denied. According to CrossFit® HQ, because Chloie was born with a Y chromosome, she cannot compete as a woman. CrossFit® HQ told her if she registered, she would have to register as a man.
In a letter written to Chloie, responding to her desire to compete, CrossFit® HQ wrote:
“Our decision has nothing to do with ‘ignorance’ or being bigots — it has to do with a very real understanding of the human genome, of fundamental biology, that you are either intentionally ignoring or missed in high school.”
CrossFit® HQ went on to explain that despite having gender confirmation surgery and having undergone estrogen hormone therapy for the better part of a decade, Chloie’s Y chromosome gave her an innate advantage over XX chromosome female competitors, and that she would not be allowed. One of my favorite responses to this debacle can be found here — CrossFit affiliate owner Alyssa Royse comments on how CrossFit® HQ’s behavior hurts us all.
Okay, let’s put aside the fact that Chloie is 5’4″ and 150 lbs. and that she has no size advantage compared to Games athletes, like Brooke Ence (5’7″ and 150 lbs.), Elisabeth Akinwale (5’7″, 158 lbs.), Annie Thorisdottir (5’5″, 152 lbs.), and Katrin Davidsdottir (5’3″, 152 lbs.). CrossFit® HQ’s position is ignorant and ignores what most other major sporting organizations (including the International Olympic Committee) have known for a while now: trans athletes are just like other athletes.
Scientifically, an athlete who has been on hormone therapy for 2 or more years is operating on the same level in terms of muscle ability as those born the same sex. There is no magic advantage to having a “Y” chromosome, though I’m sure we can all understand why a bunch of meathead dudes would want to preserve this myth– it allows them to continue to believe they’re “special” because they were “born men.” But I digress.
So, friends, the ugly truth is that while I have devoted thousands of hours, gallons of sweat, and, on some days, all that I have left in me to this sport, I am not allowed to compete. CrossFit® HQ would force me to register as a woman, but then would ban me from competition even if I want to do that (which trust me, I do not) because I take testosterone (a “performance enhancing drug”). I cannot compete as a man because I have two X chromosomes.
So, this year, I am taking the $20 I would have spent to register for the Open, and I am donating it to Lambda Legal, an advocacy group that helps fight against discrimination for trans people all over the US. If you believe that CrossFit is for everyone, if you believe that CrossFit should be a space where ALL athletes can compete, then I ask you to do the same.
Let’s send CrossFit® HQ a message that we #SupportAllAthleTes.