A transgender woman is at war with CrossFit because the fitness company has refused to allow her to compete in the female division of the upcoming CrossFit games. Chloie Johnson, born a man, is a personal trainer who had sexual reassignment surgery in 2006 and as a result is legally recognized as a woman in the state of California. Johnson fired back at CrossFit on Thursday with a lawsuit for unfair competition, discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
CrossFit insists that in order for Johnson to contend fairly she would need to compete in the Men’s Division. CrossFit maintains that fundamentally a male competitor who has gone through a sex reassignment procedure still has an unfair advantage, physiologically and physically, over women due to their genetic makeup. The fitness company maintains that their decision is neither due to ignorance nor a bigot attitude but to a true understanding of the human body as it relates to fundamental biology.
The powers that be at the fitness company have determined that competitors in their event must compete according to their birth gender. Johnson contends this is a violation of her civil rights. According to Johnson’s lawsuit she has branded herself as a female since she was a teenager. Since her reassignment surgery, as required, Johnson has been on female hormone therapy.
Last year Johnson wanted to compete in the CrossFit Games as a woman but was denied. CrossFit says transgendered athletes will always be welcomed with open arms in the CrossFit community; however they will not waver from their commitment to ensure the competition remains fair. CrossFit Games is a contest which seeks to identify the fittest man and woman. Johnson’s lawyer considers this a case of discrimination against transgendered people but CrossFit’s calls it protecting the fairness of the competition. They maintain that they have an obligation to protect the rights of the competition as well as the rights of all its competitors.
Waukeen McCoy, Johnson’s attorney, strongly disagrees with CrossFit’s decision. McCoy says his client has been on estrogen for so long that she does not have any advantage over other women. McCoy said it is time for CrossFit to change its rules to be more like the International Olympic Committee which allows transgender athletes to compete in their identified gender after undergoing sexual reassignment surgery. McCoy says the law prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in California and a corporation like CrossFit should understand the law in the state they do business.
Hormone replacement therapy includes anti-androgen therapy for transgender women. Anti-androgen nullifies the effects of testosterone in order to reduce the masculine features of the body. Other therapies may also include hormones, progesterone and estrogen in order to make the male body more feminine. Transgender men receive the opposite types of hormones when going through replacement therapy. They require testosterone in order to make their bodies more masculine and increase hair and muscle growth.
Once Johnson’s reassignment surgery was complete she had all of her records, including her birth certificate, changed to reflect her current status as a woman. Johnson claims she did not identify herself as a transgender and kept her background secret. She said if she has to expose her history it should be for the good of all transgender athletes and people, not because of a discriminating company.
Johnson’s lawsuit alleges that according to CrossFit’s policy a transgender athlete would be forced to reveal their personal history. This means even if they wanted to remain private they would be obligated to expose themselves.
This situation is quite reminiscent of a similar situation last year when transgender fighter Fallon Fox sparked a debate in Mixed Martial Arts community for her desire to compete as a female. Fox, formerly known as Burton Boyd, in 2006 received gender reassignment surgery but was called a sideshow who should never be allowed to fight women.
According to Dr. Eric Vilain, science supported Fox’s stance. Vilain is ULCA’s director of the Institute for Society and Genetics. He stated that male to female transsexuals have considerably less bone density and muscle strength along with a higher fat mass than males.
Science seems to be on Fox’s side. “Male to female transsexuals have significantly less muscle strength and bone density, and higher fat mass, than males,” says Dr. Eric Vilain, director of the Institute For Society And Genetics at UCLA. Vilain examined Fox’s medical records and wrote a letter supporting her bid to fight as a woman.
Vilain said it was still possible that Fox could be stronger than other women because she was born a man but maintained that sports consists of competitors who, by definition, have different advantages for a variety of genetic reasons. He followed up with the example of a woman runner who may be naturally faster or a female basketball player who may be naturally taller than her opponent; no one complains about those instances.
Vilain also stated that Fox’s low testosterone could offset any advantage she may have once had. In the absence of ovaries or testicles, which produce testosterone, her levels are more than likely lower than any of her female competition.
Just as Fox wanted to compete as a woman so does Johnson. McCoy said she is legally a female and should be allowed to participate as one.
Chloie Johnson is a transgender woman at war with CrossFit because the fitness company has denied her “right” to compete in the female division of the upcoming CrossFit games. In the state of California she legally recognized as a woman. On Thursday Johnson slammed CrossFit with a lawsuit for unfair competition, discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)