Dr. Johnny Benjamin's irrelevant argument against inclusion of trans fighter Fallon Fox

Dr. Johnny Benjamin is known as "the Fight Doc." He wrote an article for MMA Junkie in which he argues that transgender Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Fallon Fox shouldn't be able to compete against other women.

He made the same statement in an interview with Steph Daniels from the site Bloody Elbow. And even if the information on which he bases his thoughts on are correct, they're leading him, and many others who follow this same logic, to the wrong conclusion.

There are a lot of odd things about his statements, many of which were pointed out quite well by Trans Advocate, including his apparent lack of knowledge of what the word "transgender" even means - asserting "Who you love, who you date … I couldn’t care less. I don’t pick who you love, you don’t pick who I love. That’s a rule I live my life by."

Another, also pointed out by Trans Advocate, was his claim that the International Olympic Committee changed its rules to allow trans women to compete with other women - not because science doesn't support a policy of exclusion (which it doesn't) but because of "Political Correctness."  This is an incredibly common meme from anti-gay activists, who blame "Political Correctness" for everything from the APA declassifying being gay as a mental illness and the Supreme Court deciding that states can't arrest people for being gay ... to somehow preventing the British police force from fighting crime.

But the biggest problem comes when he starts talking science. Let's start with the fact that he's ignoring all the science that's already been put forward on this story, all of which supports inclusion. No, Benjamin says that that science isn't good enough.  From his MMA Junkie piece:

What does the scientific/medical research suggest? Unfortunately, pitifully little, if anything. This very specific and important question has not been adequately and scientifically investigated. Many medical professionals have voiced well-phrased opinions regarding muscle mass and bone density, but none has cited specific, scientifically supported information that answers the athletic/physical performance capacity question. Hunches, gut feelings and anecdotal experience don't pass muster in the medical arena when a person's heath, well-being and life are truly at stake.

And here's why. From his Bloody Elbow interview:

The issue here is if it's safe or not. That's the only thing I care about. Do we know enough about it to say if it's safe or not? The problem with the transgender issue, specifically male to female, is that there is not enough scientific information out there to say if it's safe enough to allow this to go on. If you don't know if it's safe, we have to err on the side of safety, which says until we get more information, we cannot go forward with this.

 

Benjamin is correct when he says that more research could be done on the physical changes that people who medically transition undergo, and how they affect athletic performance.

Benjamin is also correct, in saying that Mixed Martial Arts is a very dangerous sport, and one in which competitors can get seriously hurt.

But here's where his logic veers off into irrelevance.

The average height of men is greater than the average height of women. In addition to bone density, there is also the issue of longer bones in men. Longer bones lead to some mechanical advantages that shorter bones don't have.

Sure, men are taller. On average.  Men have denser bones? Yes, on average.  Longer bones? I'll take your word for it - but again, on average.

But even ignoring the natural changes that experts say happen within the body after a medical transition - wouldn't there be women taller than Fallon? Yes.  Some with denser bones? Most likely. With longer bones? I don't see why not. 

Let's keep going. Would some women have quicker natural reflexes? Of course. Better eyesight? Yup.

Here's the problem with Benjamin's argument. MMA classes are determined by weight. Not by bone density, or muscle mass, or any other quality; whether measurable or immeasurable - whether innate or drawn out through intense training. Just weight.  

Compared to Fallon, there's got to be women with longer and denser bones, who are a bit naturally stronger, and maybe a little quicker.  In fact, if you were to look at all of the possible natural advantages Fallon could potentially have against an opponent, there are plenty of other women who share those advantages.  By Dr. Benjamin's logic, why should they be able to compete against other women, especially in a sport as dangerous as this?

In fact, why should they be even able to compete against Fallon, if they have so many natural advantages over her? (Sorry Fallon!)

If you were to plot on a graph the natural athletic advantages of every single human on earth, you might find a handful of men who are more athletically gifted than literally every single woman alive.  It's less likely, but you might even find a handful of women who were less athletically gifted than literally every single man alive.  Everyone else - including you, including me, and including Fallon, is part of the overlap. And this is true, even accounting for the overwhelming natural testosterone 'advantage' that men hold.

The NCAA and International Olympic Committee have both determined that after a certain period of time following a trans woman medically transitioning, there is not enough of a "natural advantage" left to prevent her from competing with other women.  Once you get beyond obvious performance enhancing chemicals like testosterone and start talking about things like bone density? When you think about the range of natural variations that exist that don't get taken into account, those things are irrelevant.

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