Like anyone else, trans people should have the right to play

Hannah Mouncey Columnist

By Hannah Mouncey, Hannah Mouncey is a Roar Expert New author!

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172 Have your say

    For a lot of the last two months, the one question I’ve been asked repeatedly is “why?”.

    Why nominate for the draft, why put yourself out there, why engage with the media?

    All valid questions, many of which I will answer in due course, but the question that really grates, the question I still don’t understand is: “If people have already gone out of their way to accept transgender people, why do you feel like you have a right to push even further and play sport?”

    It has been asked more often than you’d think.

    There is simply no point trying to hide the confusion I have had whenever it’s been asked. It always happens online, mind you, never face to face.

    Quite simply, the only answer I can give is that I’m not pushing anything – I want to do what anyone else can and being transgender shouldn’t be a barrier to that.

    Of course, for those transitioning from male to female, there needs to be a time period for hormone treatment to have an effect, but once the person has met the medical guidelines set out then there shouldn’t be an issue.

    The problem is people are scared of what they don’t know. The difficulty at the moment is too many people are happy for the status quo to continue because they don’t want their views challenged.

    In spite of the medical evidence that was put forward by many doctors in the media just after the draft, so many comments on social media started with: “I don’t care what the experts say…” That illustrates the point well enough.

    That people are willing to discount the views of experts in a field because they don’t like it shows how much work still needs to be done.

    Many experts thought the earth was flat once as well, and but for people being open to new ideas and information which challenge their own, we may still, or would have until the astronauts went up and saw what they left behind was round.

    The truth is with no testosterone – and I have less in my system than those born female – the physical attributes people fear I possess simply aren’t there. And they won’t come back. No matter how much I train, no matter how much time I might spend in the gym, without testosterone there is simply no way of regaining the strength I once had.

    It’s the same for every other physical attribute, but let’s address the elephant in the room – what people fear about me is the strength they think I have.

    The truth is I’m still the size I am because the body doesn’t want to lose muscle, so once it twigged to the fact that’s what was happening, the process slowed significantly. Every year eight PE class learns that. Having said that, I was a good 25 kilos heavier than I am now before I started treatment.

    The flipside of that is the effect a lack of testosterone has on a person’s central nervous system, haemoglobin levels and other things that people can’t see.

    The central nervous system (CNS) plays an enormous role in strength and force production, and the effect the lack of testosterone has on the CNS means that I simply can’t do what people assume I can when they look at me.

    A pretty good example of that is when two girls I was training with at a recent camp with the women’s national handball team turned around at the end of the first day and said: “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you really aren’t that strong are you?”

    Quite simply, the external doesn’t match the internal. Am I still strong? Absolutely – I will never deny I am strong. My biggest asset has always been my strength and power and it always will be, but I don’t have strength at what people would call ‘male’ levels.

    The simplest way to explain it is that it works on an equivalency basis – say, for example, I was roughly 20 per cent stronger than most males I played against, I will roughly be 20 per cent stronger than most females I play against.

    But I was always slow, and as a result, most women are a lot faster than me. My endurance was never great, so as a result, most of my opponents have better endurance than I do.

    Some will argue that I will be much more than 20 per cent stronger than some girls, those who are smaller, but the same applied to the smaller men I played against. Sport throws up all different shapes and sizes.

    How the public judges transgender people is in itself an interesting thing. From my experience, the world is still by and large at the stage where people will accept you until they believe your gender might somehow impact on them.

    I could go on for hours with examples, but sport is the obvious one and anyone reading this will have seen enough in recent weeks to know an explanation probably isn’t necessary.

    Instead, the better examples are simply things people have said to me that would never be said to anyone else.

    I’ve been told I shouldn’t be allowed to work with children – which I was for a time – because I’m transgender. Imagine someone saying that to someone based on their religion or sexual orientation – it’s ridiculous.

    But for some, being transgender means that should be off limits. As many believe should sport. But being transgender does not equal being a paedophile or a danger to children, and in sport it certainly doesn’t equal a man playing with women.

    The best – and I use that term rather uncomfortably – example of how people view my and other trans people’s place in society at the moment was a comment I saw on Facebook that said “I’m ok with people living however they want, but transgender people have to realise that once they choose to transition then they give up certain rights.”

    To be quite frank, I’m here to say no we don’t. There is a lot wrong with that comment, not least of which the idea that being trans is a choice, but it’s just where things are at the moment.

    This is where a lot of society’s ideas about trans people lie, and that’s okay, so long as people are open to learning what being trans is like, the effect hormones have on your body and people are willing to be open to ideas that challenge their own.

    Hannah Mouncey
    Hannah Mouncey

    Hannah Mouncey is an Australian rules footballer and, most notably, an international handball player, having represented Australia 22 times to date including at the 2013 World Championships. Hannah narrowly missed out on qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games with the men?s national team, immediately after which she began the transition from male to female. In October 2017, Hannah?s nomination for the AFLW draft was rejected on the grounds of her transgender status just one day before the event took place, despite being tipped by football insiders to go as high as one of the top five picks in the draft.

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    The Crowd Says (172)

    • December 5th 2017 @ 6:49am
      Chris Love said | December 5th 2017 @ 6:49am | ! Report

      Hannah, you may not have to give up certain rights, but neither do the females who play AFL. They have a right to play the game they love without the fear of or the real threat of being seriously injured by another player who has had decades of advantage via the testosterone and denser build and bone structure than they do. This is a straight up and down duty of care issue.

      You may feel how much strength you have lost since before your transition but just looking at you one can tell that you still have all the athletic attributes of a man. A very athletic man. Only a rare amount of women at the highest levels of many sports have your physical attributes. Think the Williams sisters as an example.

      I say this as a man, that is built like a woman, who loved playing Rugby (both codes) knowing I was always going to be up against it. Mother Nature made that unbalanced playing field for me and I had to accept it. While you’ve chosen not to accept it, and gone down the path you have, I’m not begrudging you at all for doing so. What you do have to accept is that this is the physical equivalent of a male injecting themselves with steroids for 20 years and working out hard, stopping injecting, then expecting everyone to let them compete in a competitive sport once their testosterone levels have returned to normal. You begin so far ahead of the pack and it’s not fair and it’s not safe.

      I’m not saying you should never play the game again, but like the AFL who made the correct decision, that time is not now.

      • Roar Guru

        December 5th 2017 @ 8:24am
        Wal said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:24am | ! Report

        This is where so many miss-understand the science. It is not only the ceasing of Testosterone that makes the difference it is also the increase in estrogen that has physical effects these negate any long-term effects testosterone may have had pre trans.

      • Roar Guru

        December 5th 2017 @ 8:36am
        Cat said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:36am | ! Report

        How can you say the AFL has made ‘the correct decision’? If what you say about injuries is true (and I do not believe it to be), then how can the AFL tick off Hannah continuing to play lower female grades? The decision smacks of inconsistency and hypocrisy. By (correctly) allowing Hannah to play at lower levels and not at AFLW level the AFL have clearly showed this was not a decision about body size, shape, nor strength. Those are just excuses.

        • December 5th 2017 @ 9:00am
          Chris Love said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

          I actually edited my post as I agree with you. Wasn’t sure if that was under review as well.

          • Roar Guru

            December 5th 2017 @ 9:04am
            Cat said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

            It’s not under review. The AFL has stated she is free to play where she played last year.

            • December 5th 2017 @ 9:09am
              Chris Love said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:09am | ! Report

              That could prove to be a mistake.

              • December 5th 2017 @ 10:16am
                spruce moose said | December 5th 2017 @ 10:16am | ! Report

                So it just proves that you went on a massively ignorant spiel.

                You have to be well aware of the facts before you spout that.

        • December 5th 2017 @ 10:47am
          Peter the Scribe said | December 5th 2017 @ 10:47am | ! Report

          I admit to neither being informed or well read on this issue however, in an historic first actually agree with Cat’s point. You can’t have it cleared at a lower level to be kept out of the public eye.The potential for injury argument seems absurd to me as one could argue Sandilands is not allowed to tackle Jarryd Blair due to the size difference and potential for injury?

          • Roar Guru

            December 5th 2017 @ 11:26am
            Wal said | December 5th 2017 @ 11:26am | ! Report

            Valid point Peter
            For some reason, some seem to think these female athletes are so easily broken, and need protection
            Anyone who watched either the recent Rugby Union or League World cups would well know that is not the case.
            Subritzky-Nafatali the Black Ferns 10 is the same weight as Bernard Foley. And more importantly as an amateur bigger than 90% of the Men’s First Fives during the amateur era

          • Roar Guru

            December 5th 2017 @ 12:47pm
            Cat said | December 5th 2017 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

            The apocalypse is upon us, surely.

            • December 5th 2017 @ 1:00pm
              Peter the Scribe said | December 5th 2017 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

              Must be Cat, next thing you’ll agree Bucks can coach.

              • December 5th 2017 @ 4:32pm
                Matto said | December 5th 2017 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

                Has anyone who isn’t a collingwood supporter ever thought that, let alone said it?

          • December 5th 2017 @ 6:59pm
            Mattician6x6 said | December 5th 2017 @ 6:59pm | ! Report

            Agree pts, I also think a anonymous survey of the aflw players should be conducted to ascertain what their thoughts are.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 10:03am
        mdso said | December 5th 2017 @ 10:03am | ! Report

        Why didn’t you say it as it is and say Serena Williams because Venus is a totally different build?

      • December 5th 2017 @ 11:03am
        Jon boy said | December 5th 2017 @ 11:03am | ! Report

        100% correct Chris ,it is simple as that.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 1:54pm
        Taniwha said | December 5th 2017 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

        Well said Chris Love, couldn’t agree with you more. I also love my Rugby and like you i didn’t have the physique that allowed me to play at a senior level. For as long as i can remember i was fortunate to be given dispensation to play down a couple of age groups, when this was no longer possible and forced into retirement, i took up coaching.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 11:07pm
        Kangajets said | December 5th 2017 @ 11:07pm | ! Report

        Any girl or guy that steps on a football field knows they could get injured

        The afl girls need some cement to harden up and play against Hannah . Footy isn’t supposed to be easy .

        • December 6th 2017 @ 12:51pm
          Jack Russell said | December 6th 2017 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

          So why have different leagues for each gender at all?

    • December 5th 2017 @ 6:51am
      Not so super said | December 5th 2017 @ 6:51am | ! Report

      Is there many examples of women changing to men in professional sport?

      • Roar Guru

        December 5th 2017 @ 8:19am
        mds1970 said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:19am | ! Report

        Don’t think so. Not in a body-contact sport anyway.

        At my age, my playing days are well and truly over. But as a man who thinks violence against women is the ultimate dog act, I suspect I would find myself subconsciously holding back on tackles, reluctant to bump and unable to bring myself to land a cheap shot behind play.

        • December 5th 2017 @ 9:25am
          not so super said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:25am | ! Report

          if there was no advantage you would think it would be going both ways?

    • December 5th 2017 @ 7:33am
      DeanM said | December 5th 2017 @ 7:33am | ! Report

      By no means do I intend to offend you here but physical advantages between biologically born woman and transgender women do not simply start and finish at testosterone.

      Men have larger internal organs, larger lungs and heart result in more oxygen uptake. The more oxygen you can take in, the more that can be transported to your muscles. VO2max measures an athlete’s maximum oxygen uptake. It’s higher in men than it is in women, even for men and women that have the same body mass and equivalent lean muscle mass. Biologically, men have a higher VO2max.

      As a result, men also tend to have a higher concentration of hemoglobin in their blood than women do. For athletes, that’s an advantage. This is why doping with EPO, a protein that increases your oxygen-carrying hemoglobin, is illegal in sports. Having been born biologically a male you would have an advantage over most female athletes.

      Bone structure is another physical advantage particularly through the hips, the bone structure of a man hips results in greater recruitment of the muscles attached.

      These are just some of the physical advantages that exist. I tend to agree with the comment in your article and feel you should not be able to play in womens professional sports.

    • Roar Guru

      December 5th 2017 @ 8:13am
      mds1970 said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:13am | ! Report

      Is testosterone levels alone enough to determine eligibility? I don’t think it can.
      The average reasonable fan in the grandstand or watching on TV won’t have access to testosterone readings. But they will know a physical mismatch when they see one.
      In a full body contact sport, it’s an unacceptable risk profile.

      This was a no-win situation for the AFL. If they stop her playing it’s discrimination, if they let her play and someone gets hurt it’s reckless negligence.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 11:11pm
        Kangajets said | December 5th 2017 @ 11:11pm | ! Report


        I’m calling bs on that . There are physical mismatch in every game of men’s afl, why are the female girls allowed to play smaller opponents. Soft. Harden up girls. It’s footy

        • December 6th 2017 @ 12:06pm
          RandyM said | December 6th 2017 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

          then why not just allow the men to play in the womens comp and vice versa then?

    • Roar Guru

      December 5th 2017 @ 8:18am
      Wal said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:18am | ! Report

      Guys and I say guys because it does tend to be men who have an issue with Trans athletes competing with women and very rarely the women themselves.
      Please educate yourselves on the Transgender process and the effects it has on the athlete, a nice summary of some of the studies is as per below.

      But here’s why we all had it wrong: The first-ever study of transgender athletes showed that the hormone therapy that facilitates male-to-female transition does more than just suppress testosterone. Published last year in the Journal of Sporting Cultures and Identities, the study showed that as testosterone levels approach female norms, trans women experience a decrease in muscle mass, bone density and other physical characteristics.

      “Together these changes lead to a loss of speed, strength and endurance — all key components of athleticism,” the study’s author, Joanna Harper, wrote in The Washington Post. Harper, who is chief medical physicist at Oregon’s Providence Portland Medical Center, a trans athlete and a participant in the IOC meeting that overhauled the trans guidelines, explained to me that “it’s not the anatomy that matters, it’s the hormones.” After a year of hormone therapy, for example, female trans distance runners completely lose their speed advantage over cisgender women.

      To me, this makes it case closed if it is a level playing field then why deny someone the chance to compete in the sport they love.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 8:44am
        DeanM said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:44am | ! Report

        Does this result in reducing lung capacity and changing their bone structure? No it does not.
        Would you be ok with Transgender females competing in cage fighting or boxing against biologically born females seeing as you see no advantage?

        • Roar Guru

          December 5th 2017 @ 9:58am
          Wal said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:58am | ! Report

          They already do

          “Eric Vilain, the director of the Institute For Society And Genetics at UCLA, worked with the Association of Boxing Commissions when they wrote their policy on transgender athletes. He stated in Time magazine that “Male to female transsexuals have significantly less muscle strength and bone density, and higher fat mass, than males”[13] and was quoted as saying that, to be licensed, transgender female fighters must undergo complete “surgical anatomical changes […], including external genitalia and gonadectomy” (see sex reassignment surgery) and subsequently a minimum of two years of hormone replacement therapy, administered by a board certified specialist. In general concurrence with peer-reviewed scientific literature,[20] he states this to be “the current understanding of the minimum amount of time necessary to obviate male hormone gender related advantages in sports competition”. Vilain reviewed Fox’s medical records and said she has “clearly fulfilled all conditions.”[2] When asked if Fox could, nonetheless, be stronger than her competitors, Vilain replied that it was possible, but noted that “sports is made up of competitors who, by definition, have advantages for all kinds of genetics reasons”.[13] Fox herself responded to the controversy with an analogy in a guest editorial for a UFC and MMA news website:[21] As an ethnic group, African American women statistically have bone mineral densities close to Caucasian males[22] and bones more resistant to fracture,[23] which, however, does not imply an unfair advantage of individual African Americans, either.[21]”

        • Roar Pro

          December 5th 2017 @ 10:08am
          Alexander Clough said | December 5th 2017 @ 10:08am | ! Report

          Given it’s already happened with Fallon Fox I’d say that point’s rather moot.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 9:08am
        Chris Love said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

        “A Trans Athlete” hardly an unbiased opinion there is it.?

        Did she also say the therapy decreases bone density to that of a woman?

        Did she say the muscle mass reduction was in line with what a person who never went through male puberty and years of young adult muscle growth could be expected to have?

        Did she say that the therapy reversed the effects that puberty has on a males body such bone growth (height) structure (shoulder width) natural body fat ratio in a year?

        Being a man must mean we shouldn’t have an opinion on it also hey?

        • Roar Guru

          December 5th 2017 @ 9:23am
          AdelaideDocker said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

          “A Trans Athlete” hardly an unbiased opinion there is it.?”

          In the same way that somebody who survived a terror attack would hold ‘biased’ stronger views against terrorism, or a African-American individual would be bias and hold stronger views against segregation? She’s a doctor, and she produced good work. You’re just choosing to ignore the title before her name, and focus on the changing of her name itself.

          “Being a man must mean we shouldn’t have an opinion on it also hey?”

          Ugh, I hate that statement. Literally nobody is saying that.

          Men can hold whatever opinion they want to hold. It’s just that, generally, it’s men who are unfortunately the most ignorant when it comes to issues like this.

        • Roar Guru

          December 5th 2017 @ 9:41am
          Wal said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

          The IOC, NCAA have all decided under certain conditions there is no physical advantage after transitioning. If you don’t believe my posts take the time to google scholar it and learn for yourself.

          Many Women are also born with elevated levels of Testosterone (Polycyctic being just one) with many physical advantages that come with that.

          • December 5th 2017 @ 10:06am
            Chris Love said | December 5th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

            How can there not be? The average Australian male is 175.6cm tall. The average Australian female is 161.8cm tall. Now something tells me that what ever the chemicals going through a mans body during puberty and early late teens (on average) is a huge factor in that massive near 14cm gap. Does the transition hormones also shrink men’s standing height by up to 14cm in a single year? If the answer is no THEN RIGHT THERE IS AN ADVANTAGE!

            “Under certain conditions”………. if I transitioned I could understand that it could be said that I hold no advantage.

            I’m not saying she shouldn’t be ruled out for life, but obviously she’s not done transitioning yet.

            • Roar Guru

              December 5th 2017 @ 10:18am
              Cat said | December 5th 2017 @ 10:18am | ! Report

              Elite athletes rarely fit into the average category to begin with.

            • December 5th 2017 @ 10:50am
              NickoM1960 said | December 5th 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

              @ChrisLove, can you please point me to the “National Average Height Sports League”? @Cat has succinctly made the point and the Author clearly did as well in the article that even within “same” gender sports there is a huge difference between the biggest and smallest, tallest and shortest, strongest and weakest. I am guessing that she would neither be the biggest nor the smallest in the AFLW, just the same as there would be at least a 14cm gap between the tallest and shortest “born” females. Aaron Sandilands would have 14cm on Dusty Martin, NAS would have 14cm on Billy Slater, Rob Simmons on George Gregan etc etc. Basketball? Don’t get me started! I watched (and really enjoyed) the Women’s Rugby League World Cup and there is enormous differences in size and power between those athletes, the Australian fullback is tiny and the forwards are very big and powerful. Did that stop her from competing?
              If you are going to object to something on other than factual grounds just “man” up and say so.

            • Roar Guru

              December 5th 2017 @ 11:05am
              Wal said | December 5th 2017 @ 11:05am | ! Report

              They also have a reduced Muscle mass so it that much harder for them to carry that additional bulk around, hence Hanah finding her endurance has suffered.

    • December 5th 2017 @ 8:49am
      Hungry Jack said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      Well written, Hannah. I too, am flabbergasted that many people, like some of the above bloggers, continue to choose to ignore the science that supports your case for inclusion to play in the AFLW. Maybe, one day, they’ll grow up and accept the truth. Good luck, Hannah. You have my support! And Wal, well done. You have a good handle on it. Wish other ‘blokes’ could be more objective.

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