Feb 21, 2024

Transgender Athletes, the Story of Professional Golfer, Dr. Bobbi Lancaster (Part 2)

mental hurdles of golf podcast

Dr. Bobbi Lancaster's journey has been one of both struggle and triumph. Born male as Bob, Bobbi felt from a young age that she was different. She excelled at sports, including golf, but also felt most comfortable expressing her feminine side. After hiding her true self for decades and living outwardly as a man, Bobbi courageously transitioned in her 50s to live openly as a woman.

While Bobbi's path has held great joy, it has also involved painful loss and discrimination. However, Bobbi's story is ultimately one of hope - of finding one's purpose and voice. Though golf brought her notoriety, Bobbi has discovered a higher calling to advocate for the transgender community and promote greater understanding in society.

Continuing the Conversation on Trans Athletes in Sport

In part 1 of this interview, Bobbi spoke extensively about her journey both as an athlete and transgender woman trying to find her place in sport. Though Bobbi initially competed on women's professional golf tours, over time she grappled with whether she retained physical advantages from developing as biologically male during puberty.

Bobbi continues the conversation here on this complex issue of transgender athletes in women's sport:

"There's still what they call legacy effects that are at play. What do we mean by legacy effects? It doesn't matter how much estrogen or what surgeries I've had...I'm still six foot one...I've still got, well, not anymore, but a muscle mass, a larger cardiac output, larger lungs, all because of testosterone."

Bobbi cites research suggesting transgender women retain a 5-8% performance advantage even after medical transition. And this advantage has kept some cisgender female athletes from podium finishes and opportunities:

"You took away a position for a cisgender woman. She should have been on the podium. Not that trans woman with her legacy advantage because she was once went through a male puberty."

Bobbi believes while inclusion is important, competitive fairness and safety must also be priorities in sport. She advocates for updated policies based on the latest science, including recent rule changes by some major sporting federations requiring early medical transition for transgender athlete participation.

A Cautionary Tale: When Pursuit of Dreams Leads to Backlash

Bobbi shares the recent controversial case of Hailey Davidson, a transgender female professional golfer competing in a developmental women's tour in Florida. Reportedly capable of driving the ball 50-60 yards past opponents, Hailey won her third event after unleashing her full power on the final hole to claim the trophy.

The victory prompted serious private debate about fairness, but fear of backlash has kept competitors publicly silent. Bobbi understands those concerns, but believes self-awareness is also key:

"If you're really listen to your heart, you knew anyhow...Come on, we have to like get real here about the fact that science is now telling us what kind of...advantage I've got still."

Bobbi worries when a few transgender athletes zealously pursue dreams without acknowledging potential unfairness, it can undermine inclusion efforts and fuel discrimination:

"It led to pushback and more hate. And now the kids are paying the price."

In at least 18 US states, there are bills seeking to ban transgender girls from school sports, and even criminalize doctors providing gender-affirming medical care to trans youth.

While Hailey's goals are understandable, Bobbi believes those in positions of influence must consider the broader implications and potential harm to others in the community. Though giving up dreams presents a sacrifice, the cost of negative public opinion is far greater.

Navigating Complex Choices for Trans Youth

Bobbi discusses the challenges of developing inclusive, ethical policies for the participation of transgender youth athletes. She notes some major global sports federations now require early medical transition before puberty, such as use of hormone blockers around ages 8-12, for later eligibility in elite women's sport.

However, Bobbi questions if children that young can consent to medical treatment or really know their gender identity. She also recognizes potential long-term health risks from taking blockers are still unknown.

On the other hand, Bobbi empathizes with struggles facing transgender children, especially without family support. She knows firsthand the intense distress of being forced through the wrong puberty:

"By doing nothing...you're condemning them to like, looking like me...an extremely unhappy time."

Bobbi believes policies should balance fairness in sport with the wellbeing of all athletes. She argues room must be made for openly discussing concerns without descending into toxic rhetoric against marginalized groups. There are no perfect solutions, but good faith dialogue, compassion and respect are the only path forward.

Finding Purpose Beyond Sport

Though golf brought attention to Bobbi's story, it ceased being the only lens through which she viewed herself. After years spent hiding and pretending to be someone else, Bobbi discovered greater fulfillment and meaning through activism - fighting for LGBTQ+ rights and broader societal acceptance.

Invited to speak on university campuses, Bobbi found inspiration in connecting with students hungry for a deeper understanding of transgender experiences. She took strength from allies willing to stand up publicly against discrimination. Bobbi also built relationships with lawmakers, attempting to educate on trans issues and sway votes, however difficult the challenge.

At times, Bobbi admits she struggled to recognize whether she was really making an impact. But the outpouring of letters from those profoundly touched by her story, like parents reconciling with estranged transgender children, continue to reinforce her purpose.

While Bobbi still cherishes memories of past athletic accomplishments, she now measures success by lives changed rather than trophies collected. And she remains committed to spreading compassion over hatred, however long the path.

Final Reflections on the Trans Athlete Debate

In closing, Bobbi returns to prominent criticisms of transgender athletes possessing physical advantages in women's sport. She argues if transition occurs before the major bodily changes triggered by puberty, any residual edge dissipates to an acceptable degree.

However, Bobbi makes clear this view should not be interpreted as condemnation of individual trans athletes simply trying to pursue their dreams. She calls for openness, empathy and nuance in discussing such a complex issue:

"I hope that people just embrace diversity and just, um, you know, be more accepting."

All parties must acknowledge sports include many inherent "unfairnesses" based on uncontrollable natural gifts. Genetic differences do not negate any athlete's humanity or right to compete. Strict binaries imposed between men and women fail to capture the spectrum of human experience.

As the transgender community continues fighting for basic rights and protections, achievement of total fairness in sport remains secondary. Bobbi believes compassion and dignity must prevail above all else. Progress lies not in attacking those different from us, but celebrating shared dreams that unite us.

Buy Your Copy of Dr. Bobbi Lancaster's Books Here: 

Red Light Runner

Putting Down Roots

The Doctor is In

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