Here’s How To End Transphobia, Says Outraged CrossFit Trainer, Affiliate Owner

Chloie Jonsson

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.

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.


This essay originally appeared on Royse’s blog.

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  • Cam

    I don’t think it will end transphobia, much like civil rights laws etc… haven’t wiped out rac-ism.

    But it’s a good start.

    Quick question for Queerty. Why does your filter allow so many other words but not block the word “Rac-ist or “rac-ism” Did they originally design it for a FOX News or Tea Party site and they wanted to make sure nobody could accurately call them out on that? ;)

  • DarkZephyr

    @Stefano: I’m sure that video that is completely unrelated to the article above makes you feel really great about yourself, but its pretty easy to go around interviewing a bunch of people and only putting in the idiots and cutting out the halfway intelligent people. That could be done *anywhere* in *any* country.

  • Thedrdonna

    @DarkZephyr: You mean that the British, and their president Barraco Barner, are not as uniformly intellectual as their accents make them sound? Does….does anyone have any smelling salts? I feel a faint coming on…

  • jayj150

    If self-identification is all that matters when it comes to establishing gender, then I suppose any anatomical male, with no surgical or hormonal alterations of any kind, but who identifies as a female, should be allowed to compete against women in all kinds of sporting events, am I right?.

  • Thedrdonna

    @jayj150: Um, who said that? When it comes to competitive sports, not body is making that claim. Maybe try reading the article next time, the answers you seek lie within.

  • jayj150

    @Thedrdonna: But isn’t that hypocritical?. If transsexual people want other people to completely disregard their anatomy for every issue, and to focus only on their ‘identity’, and I mean for EVERY issue, from using public bathrooms to shaming lesbians for not seeing them as potential sexual partners, then why should we make an exception here?. I’ve heard multiple times from every transsexual person I know that so-called pre-op and “non-operative” transsexuals are ‘every bit’ as much of the gender they identify with as post-op transsexuals, so, isn’t this inconsistent with this stance, and therefore, hypocritical?.

  • Thedrdonna

    @jayj150: The division in bathrooms is based on gender presentation. Thus, if someone is presenting as a woman they should be taken as such. If someone is in a sports competition, the division is based on athletic abilities, which is generally a result of testosterone level. Thus, it makes more sense to separate based on that, rather than their inherent gender ID. It’s not the best solution, but it’s better than the alternatives.

    And no, there is no broad effort to shame lesbians based on who they are or are not attracted to. Stop trying to push that particular distortion of the truth.

  • jayj150

    Can you please define what constitutes a ‘female presentation’?. Is it long hair and a skirt?. Is it make up?. What exactly defines ‘presenting as a woman’, other than saying you are one?.

    And since we are picking and choosing, what’s the stance on underwear and bathing suit modeling?. Is that another no-no for non-operatives?.Just curious.

    And by the way, yes, there’s a broad effort among transsexuals to shame lesbians for their sexual preferences. One of their most beloved icons, “Julia Serano” wrote a whole book about it; apparently she is resentful because not enough lesbians (shockingly none) has displayed any interest in her penis, while “more open-minded ‘straight'(?)men” have had that courtesy.

    Lesbians have also been publicly assaulted by ‘transfeminist activists’ at Lesbian parades in recent years, and, shocking as it might seem, some ‘Queer Transwomen groups’ even managed to convince Planned Parenthood to support a ‘sex workshop’ called “Overcoming the Cotton Ceiling: Breaking Down Sexual Barriers for Queer Trans Women” to help lesbian women overcome their ‘transmysoginy’ and fears against male genitalia, so they can consider them viable sexual partners. Classy. I wonder how a similar workshop proposed by a Christian group to help gay men and women overcome their ‘fear’ of vaginas and penises would be received among the LGBT community?. Oh yeah, I know, we call them ‘conversion camps’.

  • Thedrdonna

    @jayj150: I specifically used the phrasing of gender, not sex, because there is a difference. The fact that you ignored that says a lot about your knowledge and views on the subject.

    Julia Serano’s book is about the exclusion of trans folk from queer and feminist movements. That Planned Parenthood workshop was for trans women, to learn how to present better as women. And yes, every group of people will have those who don’t behave in an acceptable manner. Only bigots look to use the actions of a few to discount a whole minority.

    Maybe stop getting your opinions from gendertrender, and do a little original research.

  • jayj150

    @Thedrdonna: I was actually just asking about your views on the subject. I get it, sex is anatomy and gender is how ‘one identifies’. Good. Now, please explain to me why you think it is acceptable to use gender when it comes to public bathrooms and sex when it comes to sporting events, and how that is not hypocritical.

    Serano has been trying to shame lesbians for decades for being ‘close-minded’ simply for not being interested in penises, because apparently, transpeople’s identities are sacred and unchangeable, but gay people’s sexual preferences are discard-able and modifiable.

    Oh and no mention of ‘trans activists’ assault on lesbian women marching in different events across the country; I see picking and choosing is your thing.

  • Thedrdonna

    @jayj150: I specifically already explained why the division between women and men in bathrooms is different from the one between people with male-normal endocrine systems versus female-normal, and why that’s important in the context of a sporting competition. Just because you ignored it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

    Could you give me a few examples of Ms. Serano’s statements that back up what you’re saying? I just don’t see it.

    And I said that there are a few bad apples in any community. You’re attempting to paint the whole community that way, which is just as illogical as saying all gay men are like Jeffrey Dahmer.

  • inbama

    “Homophobia” used to actually have a meaning when it referred to people (1) having a fear of their own homosexual feelings or (2) of being associated with homosexuality.

    It then was run into the ground to describe any kind of anti-gay feeling or dislike.

    “Transphobia” starts at that meaningless point and goes further.

    When anonymous bigots attack transgenders, do you think they have any idea their victims are transgenders, transsexuals or in transition? Do you think they understand any difference between such persons and drag queens? Aren’t they really being attacked because of their presumed relationship to homosexuality?

    (Similarly. bisexuals aren’t victims of hate crimes because of “biphobia.” It’s only the presumption that they’re gay (homophobia) that the bigots attack.)

    Now I am not saying that Jonsson should not be allowed to participate, but these endless and instant charges of “transphobia” against every person who does not immediately surrender to pseudo-scientific ideology is not helpful to anyone.

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