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Effect of gender affirming hormones on athletic performance in transwomen and transmen: implications for sporting organisations and legislators

Abstract

Objective To examine the effect of gender affirming hormones on athletic performance among transwomen and transmen.

Methods We reviewed fitness test results and medical records of 29 transmen and 46 transwomen who started gender affirming hormones while in the United States Air Force. We compared pre- and post-hormone fitness test results of the transwomen and transmen with the average performance of all women and men under the age of 30 in the Air Force between 2004 and 2014. We also measured the rate of hormone associated changes in body composition and athletic performance.

Results Participants were 26.2 years old (SD 5.5). Prior to gender affirming hormones, transwomen performed 31% more push-ups and 15% more sit-ups in 1 min and ran 1.5 miles 21% faster than their female counterparts. After 2 years of taking feminising hormones, the push-up and sit-up differences disappeared but transwomen were still 12% faster. Prior to gender affirming hormones, transmen performed 43% fewer push-ups and ran 1.5 miles 15% slower than their male counterparts. After 1 year of taking masculinising hormones, there was no longer a difference in push-ups or run times, and the number of sit-ups performed in 1 min by transmen exceeded the average performance of their male counterparts.

Summary The 15–31% athletic advantage that transwomen displayed over their female counterparts prior to starting gender affirming hormones declined with feminising therapy. However, transwomen still had a 9% faster mean run speed after the 1 year period of testosterone suppression that is recommended by World Athletics for inclusion in women’s events.

  • gender
  • steroids
  • body weight
  • physical fitness
  • treatment

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