Every year, the third Monday of April takes on special meaning in Massachusetts. On Patriots’ Day, the battles of Lexington and Concord are remembered — and in recent years, the Boston Marathon has become a staple of that state holiday celebration.
But this year, for the first time since the event’s inception in 1897, the rules of the marathon are a little different.
Trans athletes in 2018 will be able to compete in whatever gender they choose — instead of their biological sex. This year’s event features at least five openly transgender women who are competing in the race, according to the Boston Herald.
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In an event that features over 35,000 participants a year, how will organizers keep track of the transgender competitors?
“We take people at their word. We register people as they specify themselves to be,” Tom Grilk, chief of the Boston Athletic Association, told the Associated Press. “Members of the LGBT community have had a lot to deal with over the years, and we’d rather not add to that burden.”
While Grilk is trying to be progressive in his response, he’s also alluding to problems that may come with this policy.
The Journal of Applied Physiology indicates that men are, on average, larger and stronger than women and produce more testosterone. The average man’s testosterone level is about 10 times that of a woman. The average man also has 26.4 more pounds of muscle than the average woman (72.6 vs. 46.2), 40 percent more muscle in the upper body, and 33 percent more in the lower body.
This may also explain why there is nearly a 17-minute difference in time records between men and women at the Boston Marathon (2:03:02 vs. 2:19:59).
At least one of the five openly transgender woman athletes who is competing, Stevie Romer, has not done anything to lower testosterone levels, according to Boston.com.
Now that the precedent is set, there is a loophole for elite runners to cash in on the race’s politically correct moves. Top finishers from each sex win $150,000 if they win the marathon in Boston; cash prizes are also handed out to the top 15 finishers of each sex.
There are no rules now preventing elite male runners from crossing over into the women’s race, competing there and taking the prize money — especially when second place takes home $75,000, third place earns a princely $40,000, and fourth place gets $25,000.
All they have to do is check a different box on the sign-up sheet — and they won’t be questioned further about their gender.
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The marathon committee is waving piles of money at people who may be desperate or exploitative and have a biological advantage over women. All they have to do is check a different box on the sign-up sheet — and they won’t be questioned further about their gender.
“We don’t require that runners outline their gender identity history with us, so we can’t say for certain how many trans runners are in our race,” the Boston Athletic Association, organizer of the annual Boston Marathon, said in a statement to NPR. “We do know that we have had several transgender runners in the past.”
The marathon committee may feel it’s doing the right thing — but these actions could lead to unintended consequences of which people need to be aware.
Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, ESPN, and other outlets.