From Arkansas enacting the first law in the nation that bans affirming care to transgender youth, to the Kansas House of Representatives passing its own trans student-athlete ban in a marathon session Thursday, this week has been another long one in the ongoing national siege against this marginalized community. It’s driven by misconceptions and fears that seem to constantly overshadow hard facts.
This week’s guest on the Outsports podcast, The Trans Sporter Room is Justin Gibson, best known across the YouTube/Twitch/Twittersphere as ”Jangles ScienceLad.” Gibson has a growing following as a science expert willing to dissect, discuss and debate the issues that surround transgender identity. “I pride myself in scientific research and having a researched, informed opinion,” Gibson said. “I’m a teacher by profession, so I like taking these immensely complicated topics and giving a good representation of the science behind those topics to an audience that might not have the complete background in academia.”
The Kentuckian, who described himself as a “quite gay” married, one-time competitive powerlifter and bodybuilder, holds a master’s degree in biomechanics. He has been a certified personal trainer for over ten years. He also used his online platform to speak out for trans rights in a 43-minute YouTube lecture produced last month where he dissected a 2020 research paper co-written by Swedish researcher Dr. Tommy Lundberg, and British biologist, and noted anti-trans campaigner, Dr. Emma Hilton. In his analysis, he pinpointed a number of prominent arguments by the researchers that don’t add up when all facts are considered.
“They conflate trans women as a relative sample group of males, and even though they had a lot of research, the research they were pulling showed that was not the case,” Gibson explained. “They would take any difference they could find and blow it up. For example, they’ll take in a list of big sex differences between males and females and they would list thing such as pelvic width and height, and make this assumption that this somehow matters in sports performance. The data shows that it really doesn’t have any real impacts in things such as gait and the way the muscles attach to provide force.”
“And on lung capacity, this sound like something that should really matter in the discussion and that bigger lungs means you’ll be better in endurance sports,” he continued. “It really doesn’t for two reasons. One, bigger people need bigger lungs. If you are taller, you need bigger lung capacity to fuel all that stuff. Two, and this is the way more important one, lung capacity isn’t a limited performance factor in healthy individuals. For the vast majority of athletes, lung capacity its not the limiting factor. It’s the heart’s ability to pump blood, the blood’s ability to hold oxygen and the muscle’s ability use oxygen not the surface area for gas exchange, and that was lung capacity measures.”
Gibson also discussed the efforts to seek a “middle ground.” Such hopes have been the main thrust of the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group, co-founded by three-time Olympic gold medalist and noted Title IX attorney Nancy Hogshead-Makar. The WSPWG has taken a public stance in terms of combating anti-trans legislation, but also in terms of defending itself from criticism amid controversy over its literature and membership. An investigation by Outsports contributor Ken Schultz, published Monday, explained how a group claiming to seek a balance for cisgender and transgender women in sports wound up having no trans people in its inner circle.
That same day, Hogshead-Makar was a guest this week on the Outsports podcast Five Rings To Rule Them All. In an interview with our Cyd Zeigler, they discussed the group’s aims. Zeigler pressed her to respond to criticism from trans rights advocates and allies over certain tactics in the WSPWG’s approach, including the use of terminology in their websites and in addresses to legislative bodies that are seen as transphobic, such as the use of the term “biological males”.
Hogshead-Makar defended such designations: “I’ve asked other trans athletes and other trans advocates what other term can we use that includes the science of sex?” She said in her podcast interview that the Working Group welcomed suggestions for alternatives. Outsports Managing Editor and Trans Sporter Room co-host Dawn Ennis said she has sent her suggestion to Nancy Hogshead-Makar, and we said it again in this week’s episode of our podcast: the words “cisgender” and “transgender” work quite well, are accurate, and are not offensive and willfully misgendering.
Gibson is among those critical voices saying some of the terminology and framing used by the Working Group defeats its own stated purpose. “When you explicitly build your organization around this idea that the conversation is toxic and a lot of hatred for trans people has infected it, so let's get to the bottom of it, would you explicitly frame questions as ‘Are advocacy groups correct when they say that it’s a myth and an outdated stereotype?’” he asked. “What are you talking about? What advocacy groups? Why have you chosen to frame one of your questions in your FAQs as against advocacy groups?
Gibson went so far as to say that despite the fact he felt most of the trans inclusion policies appeared to be fair and reasonable, the Working Group’s FAQs made the group look as if those policies were written by TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists). “They don’t give any source to an advocacy group that actually says this stuff,” he said. “This seems like it’s very duplicitous, and it goes against their stated principles of trying to cut through the toxicity and to bring a common sense solution to the two sides. To me, it brings up huge red flags and they do it multiple times.”
Check out the complete interview with Justin Gibson in The Trans Sporter Room. Like all Outsports podcasts, The Trans Sporter Room is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and wherever you find Outsports podcasts.
Follow Justin Gibson (@sjwdebates) on Twitter by clicking here and subscribe to his YouTube channel by clicking here.