CrossFit Games Sued for Telling Transgender Contestant She Must Compete with Men

Discrimination or biological complications?


Chloie Johnsson
Facebook posting

Chloie Johnsson, a personal trainer, wants to compete in the CrossFit Games, an effort by the de-centralized fitness company founded by libertarian Greg Glassman to find "the Fittest on Earth."

Johnsson is transgender and had full sexual reassignment surgery eight years ago. She wanted to compete as a woman. She was told by CrossFit that she would have to compete with the men, and now she's filing a $2.5 million lawsuit. CNN notes:

Chloie Jonsson, a personal trainer, charges the CrossFit company with discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress and unfair competition in a lawsuit filed Thursday in Santa Cruz, California.

While her lawyer calls it a case of discrimination against transgender people, CrossFit's lawyer calls it protecting the competition. …

According to the lawsuit, Jonsson has identified herself as a female since her teenage years and is legally recognized by California as a woman. She had sexual reassignment surgery in 2006 and has been on female hormone therapy, according to her lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that a CrossFit teammate of Jonsson's sent an anonymous e-mail to the games organizers asking about transgender athletes in the competition. CrossFit determined that competitors in the event had to compete in the gender of their birth.

The story went around the media with some cherry-picked comments from the letters involved. Dale Saran, CrossFit's general counsel, has posted links on CrossFit's forums to the full letter sent to CrossFit by Jonnson's lawyer and his full response to put it all in context. Her letter can be read here and his response here.

In short, even though freedom-friendly CrossFit supports Jonnson's right to identify herself as a woman and live her life as she chooses, Saran argues, "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."

Jonsson's lawyer told CNN that advantage doesn't exist anymore:

"(Jonsson) doesn't have an advantage over other women. She's been on estrogen for such a long time," he said about his client.

Hormone replacement therapy for transgender women includes anti-androgen therapy, which nullifies the effects of testosterone to reduce the masculine features of the body. Therapies can also consist of the hormones, estrogen and progesterone to feminize the body.

Saran commented further about their decision on CrossFit's forums (while also taking a dim view about being lectured about discrimination by her lawyer while at the same time being threatened with legal action):

We're faced with the Hobson's choice of picking one "bin" (male) and now being told that Ms. Jonnson needs 2.5 million dollars for the "harm" of not being put into the category of her choosing—and having that characterized as a "civil right" violation—OR choosing "female" and having other female athlete's complain that they have to compete against someone who had the benefit of growing up with a cascade of hormonal advantages well into adulthood.

Below, ReasonTV's interview with CrossFit founder Glassman: