Ben Johnson


Transgender male sues for $2.5 million and the right to compete against women at CrossFit Games

Ben Johnson

March 7, 2014 ( – A transgender man is suing a strength competition for $2.5 million after CrossFit denied him the right to compete against women.

Chloie Jonnson, who was born male, wants to test his brawn against female athletes in the CrossFit Games, a grueling series of contests designed to find the world's most fit competitors. When a female rival raised questions about Jonnson being considered a woman, CrossFit said he must compete as a man.

Jonnson had a sex-change operation in 2006 and is legally recognized in the state of California as a woman. Incensed, he filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against the fitness company.

CrossFit said that it is happy to do its part to assure that transgender competitors are "welcomed with open arms in this community, but what we will not waver from is our commitment to ensure the fairness of the competition."

"We have simply ruled that based upon [Chloie] being born as a male, [he] will need to compete in the Men's Division,” the company replied. "The fundamental, ineluctable fact is that a male competitor who has a sex reassignment procedure still has a genetic makeup that confers a physical and physiological advantage over women.”

Chloie says that view violates California's anti-discrimination laws. The company says Jonnson's assertion violates common sense.

"Our decision has nothing to do with 'ignorance' or being bigots,” CrossFit said in a letter. “It has to do with a very real understanding of the human genome, of fundamental biology, that you are either intentionally ignoring or missed in high school."

The feminist website Jezebel said, "The letter, if real, does not reflect actual scientific understanding of human bodies and the effects of transition on it. Instead it reflects a transmisogynistic refusal to accept a trans woman is a woman."

Scientific studies have shown that men have 40 percent more upper body muscle mass and 48 percent greater upper body strength than women. As a result, average men have stronger hand-grips than highly trained female athletes, according to a 2007 study. Male-to-female hormone replacement therapy gradually erodes some of these differences.

Jonnson's lawyer said his client has no advantage, because he has taken hormonal therapy “for years.”

Controversy has surrounded the issue of transgender athletes competing against the opposite biological sex. Mixed Martial Arts fighter Fallon Fox announced he was born male after knocking out his female opponent in 39 seconds with a knee to the head last year.

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In 2012, a 6'8” tall, 220-pound male joined the female basketball team at Santa Clara Community College.

More recently, the state of Virginia has said transgender students can play for the sports team of the gender they identify with, if they have had surgery and are taking hormonal therapy.

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network estimates that 10 states have similar policies for high school students.

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