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A new book explains why the first transgender athlete to compete against women at the Olympics has wired-in, unfair advantages

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The Tokyo Olympics get underway this week but the women’s weightlifting competition is already mired in controversy. Laurel Hubbard will represent New Zealand in the 87kg class and become the first male-born transgender athlete to compete against women at the Olympic Games.

The 43-year-old’s eligibility followed a 2015 ruling by the International Olympic Committee. Transwomen can compete alongside women if their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before their first competition.

Why 10 nmol/L? Women’s testosterone is much lower, typically in the range 0.2 – 1.7 nanomoles per litre; possibly it was a round number plucked out of the air? Or set as a sop to the vocal trans activist lobby? Who knows? But it is a controversial issue that’s dogged athletics for many years, including the banned two-time Olympic champion runner Caster Semenya.

But wherever the committee sets its arbitrary cut-off, everybody knows that male and female bodies are distinguished by rather more than the concentration of testosterone in the latest blood test.

In her superb new book, Testosterone: The Story of the Hormone that Dominates and Divides Us, Dr Carole Hooven explains why we are different. Hooven – currently the Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies in Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard – brings the science to life, and makes it accessible to the general reader. She draws liberally on her experience in the field. We travel with her to observe the sex lives of chimpanzees in Uganda, and red deer on the island of Rum in the Hebrides. There is lots more sex in the book: rats do it, birds do it and spiny lizards do it, and Hooven tells us about it.

The common link is the need to reproduce. Any species where males and females do not feel the urge to copulate with each other will not be long for the world. Testosterone is the key to sexual dimorphism – Hooven is clear about that – but........

© RT.com

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