CrossFit, It’s Time To Fix Your Ways
The CrossFit Games has made an altogether unsurprising move to cement their reputation as being sexist. Though they’ve upped the ante by throwing in a healthy dose of Transphobia. As a CrossFitter, a CrossFit Trainer and the owner of a CrossFit affiliate, I wish I could say I was surprised. As a woman, and the mother of three girls, and a human being, I wish I could say I was surprised.
But I’m not, I’m just fed up.
For those not following along, The CrossFit Games has said that Chloie Jonsson cannot compete in the Games because she was born a man.
“We have simply ruled that based upon [Jonnson] being born as a male, she will need to compete in the Men’s Division. The fundamental, ineluctable fact is that a male competitor who has a sex reassignment procedure still has a genetic makeup that confers a physical and physiological advantage over women.
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.”
I was okay with them being confused. Lots of people are confused. I am not okay with that last sentence, in which they were nothing but a bully. That degree of snark is just uncalled for, not to mention inaccurate. They showed themselves to be precisely the ignorant bigot they claim not to be.
So now I’m looking for a way that those of us who live and love this sport can stand up against the bigotry and incessant douchebaggery. Because my gym, which is both my family and my home, is not represented by this behavior. And my members, who are all manner of queer and open-hearted, deserve better than having to fight off the bad reputation that the behavior of CrossFit HQ and the CrossFit Games gives us. We’re here to build bodies and communities, we don’t have time to constantly defend and justify our sport.
That said, I’m also damned good at PR. It’s what I did before I left it all for the world of matrimony, motherhood and CrossFit. So, CrossFit, it’s my turn to train you. There are no MODs for this. Here’s how you fix the mess that you’ve made.
1. Admit that you made a mistake.
Look, we all fuck up. I say and do things all the time that I have to either apologize for or explain. So let’s call this a mistake. Let’s even give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that it was made because you really didn’t understand what it means to be transgender, much less the complicated biology of it.
But you have to own it. You can do that with both strength and grace in a way that saves face and creates change. Here, I’ll do it for you.
“CrossFit Community, we heard you. Not only that, we heard ourselves. And we didn’t like what we heard because we disrespected our athletes and our affiliates. We represented ourselves as the type of people we don’t want to be.
Our response was a knee-jerk reaction, and we used words that we shouldn’t have used. It was also based in a fundamental misunderstanding of the impact of hormones and sexual reassignment surgery on the athletic performance of the human body.
Since those statements were made, we have reached out to experts and to the community and have learned things that we wish we knew at the time. Fortunately, though we can’t change the past, we can change the future.”
2. Tell us what you learned.
Yes, the many issues associated with being transgendered, and intersexed (though we’ve not crossed that bridge yet, you’d best prepare for it now) are complicated. But here’s a quickie lesson for you.
Although we like to think that our gender is decided by the simple presence of either a penis and testes, or a vagina and ovaries, it is much more complicated than that. Much more.
Gender isn’t a binary. It is nice when our genitals and our perceived gender match-up. Roughly 1 in 1000 babies is born with some combination of genitals and chromosomes that don’t fit in the gender binary. That’s more babies than have Down’s Syndrome. But it’s not always apparent.
The outward manifestations of gender that we think of, things like muscles, strength, aggression, body hair, and athleticism, are actually a complicated stew of chromosomes steeped in hormones. It’s not just estrogen and testosterone. Not by a long shot. Last time I checked there were about 48 known factors – chromosomes and hormones – that dictate things like muscles, strength, aggression, body hair, athleticism and the like.
Not a binary.
I am willing to bet that if we mapped the hormones and chromosomes of seriously athletic men and women and compared them to those of men and women who show no interest or skill in sports, you’d see a whole host of similar factors that make them “how” they are. I have long said that I have more testosterone than your “average” woman. And many men.
Anyway, you need to let people know that you actually learned something. So here, here are some words that you can use:
“Like many people in our society today, we thought men and women existed on a binary, and it was safe to assume that if someone had a penis, they were male. If anything good has so far come of our mistake, it’s that we learned how wrong we were.
We have always loved and been amazed by the human body, now we are even more amazed. We understand that no one is defined by their genitals, that it is a complex combination of hormones, chromosomes and conditioning that make us who we are.
Where Chloie in specific is concerned, we learned that her lifelong struggle to become the woman she is was extraordinarily difficult, and made more so by people who didn’t understand it. We also learned that the grueling gauntlet of medical interventions that she has endured confer no benefit to her. Her hormones are those of a woman, her body is that of a woman, because she is a woman. “
3. Let Chloie compete.
This is easy. Look, she has no advantage. She no longer has the testes that produce testosterone (though I am loathe to have to discuss this with you because it should not be anyone’s business!) Further, she takes lots of female hormones in order to finally live as the woman she is. If I were feeling snarkier, I would suggest that you cut off your own nuts and shoot estrogen in your ice-water filled veins and tell me what a great advantage you have, but I am (or at least was) trying to be nice.
Amongst other things, all the estrogen that she has been taking for years has changed how her muscles build and respond, for better or worse, they are women’s muscles now.
She has no advantage. So, here’s how you back your way out of this mess:
“Our initial decision was based on our misunderstanding of the complicated biology that is at play. It was the wrong decision. Chloie will be allowed to compete. And we hope that makes clear that CrossFit is for every body.”
4. Support inclusiveness and anti-bullying programs.
I’ll be honest, you guys have a shitty reputation. As an affiliate and a trainer, I spend a lot of time explaining to people that “we’re not like that.” You are, simply put, my biggest obstacle to growth and success. By become increasingly like the WWF, and creating content that is consistently misogynistic and, for lack of a better word, douchey, you have created a situation in which I basically have to distance myself from your brand in order to succeed as a CrossFit gym. (Seriously, I actually do that on our Web site.)
Walk into any box. Please. Come to my box. Look at my members. You will see people from 15 to 75 working out. You will see every nationality and religion you can think of. You will see gay families, straight families, queer as hell families. And you will see what it means to be a community.
You need to represent US. All of us. You need to be the kind of brand we can be proud to align ourselves with. And you aren’t. So, at least try. Okay?
“We realize that we have not always behaved in a way that made our athletes and affiliates feel appreciated. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t our intent, but we do want you to know that it wasn’t. We suffered from our own small perspective, and in order to combat that, we’ve created an advisory panel focused on gender and sexual orientation inclusiveness. Their job will be to look for opportunities – whether it’s anti-bullying programs or CrossQueer classes, we don’t know – to use the strength of our athletes to strengthen the bodies and community that will bring us all together for a stronger future.”
There ya go.
This was really quick, so I apologize if it is sloppy. I have been at the gym since 4:30 in the morning, coaching class after class of 14.2 – and apologizing for my sport in between classes.
I love CrossFit. I have pretty much dedicated my life and my family to it. But you guys are really fucking up. Bad.
If these words work for you, go ahead and use them. I won’t even charge you the $250 an hour fee that I would charge most corporate clients. Because I believe in being decent more than I believe in money. You might want to think about that.
Of course, if you need more help, I’m always here for you.
It would be really nice if you were there for your athletes and affiliates. All of them.
* Note: If I hadn’t been so tired when I originally wrote this, I would have mentioned the International Olympic Committee’s stand on the issue, which is:
“International Olympic Committee (IOC), the governing body charged with overseeing Olympic competition and those events leading up to the Games, became the first athletic body to adopt a policy of inclusion regarding transgender athletes. The IOC’s policy says only those who have:
1. undergone sex reassignment surgery
2. had hormone treatments for at least two years, and
3. received legal recognition of their transitioned sex
can participate consistent with their gender identities (IOC, 2003).”
It is safe to assume that the IOC (unlike, I am certain, CrossFit,) actually did consult the best doctors, geneticists and human beings on the planet to come to this decision, which they reached in 2004. But if that’s not enough for you, you can look at the policies of MANY international sporting associations on Trans*Athlete’s site. It’s pretty clear that CrossFit is not only wrong, but divergent from almost every other international sporting body.