SAN FRANCISCO » A transgender woman in Northern California has sued the company behind the popular CrossFit workouts for refusing to let her compete in the female division of its annual fitness competitions.
The lawsuit brought Thursday by Chloie Jonsson, 34, accuses CrossFit Inc. of violating her rights under a California law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
Jonsson’s complaint says she was born male but has been living as a woman since she was a teenager and underwent sex reassignment surgery eight years ago. The surgery, coupled with the female hormones she takes, satisfied the state’s requirements for her to be recognized as female on her birth certificate and other official documents.
Her lawyer, Waukeen McCoy, said Jonsson, who works as a personal trainer and is an avid CrossFit practitioner, first spoke to company representatives about her background a year ago after a teammate learned that participants in the Reebok CrossFit Games were required to register according to their gender at birth.
"They said she has an advantage over other women because of the sex she was born with, and that is completely untrue, scientifically," McCoy said, noting that the International Olympic Committee and other sports governing bodies allow athletes who have undergone surgery, taken hormones and secured legal recognition to compete in the category that corresponds to their affirmed gender.
CrossFit’s general counsel, Dale Saran, would not comment on the lawsuit, which seeks $2.5 million in damages. Saran directed The Associated Press to a CrossFit online discussion board, where he posted that Jonsson had never supplied medical documents to back up her assertion that she was a woman. He also dismissed McCoy’s suggestion that transgender athletes are engaged in a struggle as valid as the one black baseball players waged to be accepted in the major leagues.
"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," Saran wrote in a letter to McCoy that’s linked to the discussion board. "That Chloie may have felt herself emotionally, and very conscientiously, to be a woman in her heart, and that she ultimately underwent the legal and other surgical procedures to carry that out, cannot change that reality."
Saran said CrossFit may create a separate division for transgender athletes if enough step forward to compete.
"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," he said.
CrossFit is headquartered in Washington, D.C., but its founder, Greg Glassman, launched it in Santa Cruz, Calif. in the late 1990s. The company has 7,000 affiliate gyms around the world where classes offer an intense, military-style mix of weight-lifting, core conditioning and cardio exercises, according to its website.
Individuals and teams compete every year in the timed CrossFit Games to determine who can complete the most repetitions of various exercises.