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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Assessing the Potential Transgender Impact on Girl Champions in American High School Track and Field
by Higerd, Gabriel A., Ed.D., United States Sports Academy, 2021, 168; 28313943
Abstract (Summary)

The intersection of the transgender movement and sport has caught the attention of average Americans as well as sporting bodies and regulators. The rise in the numbers, as well as the acceptance of transgender individuals, have accelerated the need to create modern transgender sport policies. The goal of this research was to assist those seeking to make informed, evidence-based transgender policy decisions. Accordingly, the purpose of the study was to:

1. Investigate the underlying basis for post-pubertal sex segregation in sport.

2. Assess the effect of event distance on the performance differences between the sexes.

3. Assess the probability of a girls’ champion being biologically male (46, XY).

The research included a three-question quantitative design investigating the scope and scale of sex differences in high-school track and field, and the implications of sex differences on the probability of transgender disruption of the female classification. The study focused on biologically driven performance differences and the prevalence of potential female champions (PFCs) (males better than the best female) that may be male to female (MTF) transgender athletes.

The study investigated roughly one million American high school track and field performances (N = 920,115) available through the track and field database Athletic.net. In the sample, 400,929 were female (46, XX) and 519,186 male (46, XY), which included five states (CA, FL, MN, NY, WA), over three years (2017 – 2019), in eight events; high jump, long jump, 100M, 200M, 400M, 800M, 1600M, and 3200M.

The research first addressed the question: Is there a statistically significant relationship in the performances of female and male high school track and field athletes? Second, is there a statistically significant relationship between event distance and the percentage of males that are superior performers to the best female? Third and finally, is there a statistically significant probability of one or more 46, XY MTF transgender individuals being a girls’ champion in an event?

A z-test was used on data from each event to analyze the relationship between sex and performance. Correlation and regression assessments analyzed the relationship of event distance and sex, as represented by the percentage of PFCs. A Monte Carlo random number generation simulation, consisting of 1,110,000 trials through 111 simulations, compared transgender population estimates and known PFCs in the selected events to project the theoretical MTF transgender density at the top of the female field.

Results for the first question indicate in each of the eight events the null is rejected in favor of the alternative hypothesis: There is a statistically significant positive relationship between performance and being 46, XY (p < .001), with mean differences in performance by sex ranging from 14% at the low end in the 100M, to 24% at the high end in the long jump, and the mean difference of all the events is 18% in favor of males.

Additional evaluation of the performance distributions reveals the average male performance is better than 94%-98% of female performances (top 2%-6% of the female field). The average female performance is worse than 93%-97% of male performances (bottom 3%-7% of the male field). Approximately one-third or more (32%-43%) of male performances fit within the top 1% of female performances.

Overall the participation was 44% female and 56% male, but the participation gap varied from 14% to 50% in favor of boys’ dependent on the event, with a strong correlation (r = .93, p < .001) between participation percentage and distance, showing girls have higher participation rates in comparison to boys in events that are more dependent on power and speed, and less participation in a percentage comparison in events that rely on endurance.

The findings for the second question reveal a moderately positive relationship when comparing percent PFC and distance (r = .31, p < .001). However, post hoc analysis of performance alone suggests that there is not a statistically significant relationship between distance and mean difference in performance (r = -.19, p = .652). The smallest gap in performance, and average percentage of male PFCs, occurred in the 100M, with larger gaps occurring at 400M and beyond.

The results for the third question indicate that if transgender population density estimates were true and representative of high school track and field athletes, and if being transgender was independent, uniformly distributed attribute among the 46, XY sample, there is a simulated 81%-98% probability of transgender dominance occurring in the female track and field events. Additionally, in the simulation trials where there was at least one transgender PFC, there was an average of two to three MTF individuals. Thus, in the majority of cases, the entire podium (top performers in the state) would be MTF transgender athletes.

The data provides sufficient and strong evidence to support post-pubertal sex segregation in sport. It presents insufficient evidence that policies should be tailored by event distance. Finally, since female sport is an invaluable asset and societal good, the findings provide critical data for policymakers to make informed, evidence-based decisions that protect and promote competitive female sport.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Spradley, Brandon D.
Commitee: Cromartie, Fred J ., Tiell, Bonnie
School: United States Sports Academy
Department: Sports Management
School Location: United States -- Alabama
Source: DAI-A 82/7(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Sports Management, Kinesiology, LGBTQ studies
Keywords: Athlete, Gender differences, Sex differences, Sport performance, Track and field, Transgender policy
Publication Number: 28313943
ISBN: 9798557082822
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