A transgender woman is suing CrossFit after the popular fitness brand refused to let her compete in the women’s division of the CrossFit Games.
Personal trainer Chloie Johnson is seeking $2.5 million in damages, charging discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress and unfair competition, CNN reports. Johnson underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2006 and is legally recognized as a woman by the state of California.
CrossFit representatives say they are merely attempting to preserve a level playing field for their annual competition, which attempts to determine the fittest man and woman who partake in the company’s training regimen. The company states that Johnson would have an unfair advantage over other women because she was born as a male.
“We have simply ruled that based upon [Chloie] being born as a male, she will need to compete in the men’s division,” Crossfit reps said in a letter to Johnson, via TMZ. “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.”
“Our decision has nothing to do with ‘ignorance’ or being bigots—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.”
Johnson’s lawyer, Waukeen McCoy, disputes the notion that his client would have an unfair advantage in the CrossFit Games, citing the fact that she’s undergone hormone therapy for several years. “[Johnson] doesn’t have an advantage over other women,” McCoy said, via CNN. “She’s been on estrogen for such a long time.”
“She’s female,” McCoy added. “She’s legally female. A corporation like CrossFit, they’re doing business in California."
Johnson’s lawsuit also notes that CrossFit’s policy of requiring competitors to reveal their birth gender essentially forces transgender individuals to “out” themselves in order to participate. “If I am going to be forced to out myself, I want it to be for the good of all transgendered people and athletes, not because of a company’s discriminatory policies,” Johnson said in a statement.