Transgender Athletes — a Talking Points lesson for English reading and speaking


What does the word ‘transgender’ mean?

What is a trans athlete?

Which side do they play on — men’s or women’s?

If they compete in athletic competitions, whose side should trans people be on?

Men or women?


Fair Play? Or Unfair Advantage?

In the last few years, there has been much discussion and debate over the trans debate.

Some would say there is no debate at all, that the science is decided and confirmed.

While others declare that there is little to no evidence to support transgender ideas.

A trans person is someone who feels that their designated gender at birth does not match the gender they believe they truly are.

So, we have many people who feel trapped inside a man’s body but really identify as a woman.

Or a person born as an assigned woman at birth but considers themselves to be a man.

This has been hotly argued between those that believe in trans rights — and those that don’t.

Many trans people have come out online; in blogs or in videos, denouncing their masculine or feminine body and telling the world they are really a man or a woman.

One area where this has caused much deeper conversation is in sports.

We now have many transgender athletes competing in world-class sporting events.

In the case of men who have transitioned to being women, this seems to have caused the most debate.

One of the arguments put forward by trans critics is that trans women who compete with biological women are much stronger and have much greater endurance.

The critics argue that this puts trans women athletes at a much better advantage.

But trans people say that the treatment that trans women have can reduce their male physicality. Therefore, they are less strong than their assigned male at-birth counterparts.

However, in the world of wrestling, there are now transgender women — men transitioning into women — competing against cisgender women. That is, people designated women at birth.

And the trans women contenders win.

A female wrestling athlete who competed against a trans woman competitor said that it was like being hit by a train.

The trans woman was far superior in sheer strength and speed.

There is also a case of a cycling event.

A trans woman cyclist competed against several other assigned female at-birth cyclists and won.

On the podium, as the judges are handing out the medals, the trans woman cyclist can be seen towering above the other competitors.

She was much taller, and her legs were a lot more muscular.

There are other cases in sports in running events and weightlifting.

Usually, a trans woman athlete competes against other biological women.

For the trans community, this is a victory. They see this as great progress in terms of inclusion and equality.

But for many other people, for many of the other athletes competing in these events, they see it as unfair.

Professional athletes have voiced their concerns about this. They have sympathy for the trans movement but want all sports to have fair competition.

If women are competing against transgender women, what chance do they have of winning? Very little, it would seem.

This puts the authorities that manage these sporting events in a very difficult position.

On the one hand, they want the sports to be fair.

But on the other hand, they also want the events to be seen as all-inclusive.

The debate continues — but who will win?

Reading Comprehension Questions

What is the main topic of the article above?

What is the issue that has been discussed in recent years?

According to the article, what is a transgender person?

What is an argument stated by critics of trans women competing in sports?

How do trans people respond to this argument?

Where have trans people argued their points of view?

What area has the trans debate caused much debate?

In the world of sports, are trans men or trans women causing discussion?

Why do some people believe trans women athletes are unfair?

How do trans people respond to this?

What four sports does the article cite when talking about trans women competing with biological women?

In which sport did a trans woman wrestler compete against a cisgender woman?

How did the cisgender woman describe her experience in this event?

Are the trans community happy to see trans women competing in these sports?

How do some professional athletes feel about it?

What concerns do professional athletes have in regard to trans women competing against cisgender women?

Do they feel that biological women can win against trans women?

What is the dilemma for the sporting authorities when dealing with this?

Is there any clear winner in the debate according to this article?

Essential Vocabulary















hotly argued




















handing out


towering above














Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:


Discussion the process of talking about something to exchange ideas and possibly reach a decision.


Debate a formal discussion between two opposing sides to express different views and opinions.


Then write a sentence of your own that uses the new word or phrase correctly.


We had a great discussion in class today on the future of AI.


The town hall had a debate this afternoon on allowing shops to have longer opening hours.


Do this with all the vocabulary and, over time, this will help improve all your English skills – reading, writing, speaking and listening.


Discussion Questions

Do you think it is fair for transgender women to compete against women in sports?

Which sports do you think it is unfair?

Which sports are fair?

What about transgender men competing against men?

How can transgender athletes be included in sports while at the same time maintaining fairness for everyone?

If this continues, what do you think will happen to female sporting events?

To female sports teams?

What could happen to male sporting events?

To male sports teams?

What kind of advantages do you think transgender athletes may have in sports?

What about trans men athletes? Or trans women athletes?

Does this affect all sports? Which sports does it not affect?

Are there any transgender athletes in your country?

Are transgender people being treated fairly in professional sporting events?

There are two opposing views to this argument. How can it be solved?

Do you think it is acceptable to have a separate category of sporting events for trans athletes? Is this fair?

How do you think trans people would feel about this?

Do you know of any real sporting events featuring trans athletes? What was the outcome of this?

How can we promote inclusivity and fairness in sports for all people? Is enough being done about this?

Can you think of any methods we can use to ensure that sport is open to all trans people?

It is said that the trans community represents a tiny percentage of the population. Are we placing too much importance on the trans movement? Or not enough? What needs to be done?

How can we be fair and inclusive about this?

What are your thoughts on transgender people in general?

Do you think this is a real concern?

Do you know — or have you ever met — any transgender people?

Is it possible for other animals to be transgender?

If it is just humans, why only us?

Why not other animals?

Do you think all people are a little of the opposite sex psychologically?

How about you?

In what ways are people a little like men or women?


This is an essay writing exercise.


You are going to write an essay. The title of your essay is:


Trans Athletes In Professional Sport


Try to write a five-paragraph essay.

  • Introduction
  • 1st Point
  • 2nd Point
  • 3rd Point
  • Conclusion

In your essay, outline arguments for and against trans athletes in professional sports.

You must try to give a balanced view.


When you have finished your writing, read your essay in front of the class.

Or give it to your teacher for review.

You can download the full lesson plan by clicking the link below!

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4 thoughts on “Transgender Athletes — a Talking Points lesson for English reading and speaking”

  1. This is a very important and current topic especially in relation to professional athletes. My view is also that it is unfair (as you mentioned). It gives those who ‘were’ males an unfair advantage in female sports and competitions where prizes and metals are being won. I have to smile as I think it could be an indirect way for male supremacy to dominate the female world! Interesting!

    1. It is indeed a very tricky subject. We have to be sensitive to all concerned but we also have to be fair. So how to deal with it?

  2. It’s a catch 22 because of ‘political correctness’. We could establish a rule that ‘now’ transgender females may not compete because they are stronger. Or we could establish a new category for the competition but that would mean the ladies have to ‘come out’ and declare that they are transgender. Or maybe ‘handicapping’ like they do in horse races to equal out the advantages. It is a problem that doesn’t have an easy solution. Perhaps there should be a ‘new’ sex category.

    1. Political correctness wants to please everybody and ensure that not one single person is offended. This seems like an impossible ideal to me.

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