Maxine Blythin: Transgender cricketer reveals birth condition
Kent Women's Maxine Blythin speaks exclusively to Sky Sports about her transition, and addresses the "conjecture" about her participation in women's cricket
By Jon Holmes and Jessica Creighton
Last Updated: 01/12/19 6:33pm
The cricketer at the centre of a fierce debate about transgender inclusion in sport has spoken for the first time about the condition she was born with.
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, Maxine Blythin - who was named Kent Women's Club Player of the Year after playing a key role in their County One-Day Championship title triumph last season - explains how her testosterone levels are naturally at the same level as those of women who are not trans.
The 24-year-old describes how she transitioned in her teenage years, having experienced gender dysphoria - discomfort and distress caused when a person's gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth - as well as the effects of her biological condition.
"I was born with a condition that meant I never had any real levels of testosterone, which meant I never went through any form of male puberty," says Blythin.
A lot of the debate that's been going on and around doesn't actually apply to myself.
Since August, when a national newspaper first reported on Blythin being transgender, her participation in women's sport has been the focus of intense discourse in the media and online, some of which has escalated into harassment and abuse.
She says she is now ready to tell people as much as she can about her condition and hopes this will help to raise awareness about the diversity of trans identities.
Blythin was already known to be eligible to play women's domestic cricket by way of the ECB's trans inclusion policy, but her condition - which she says has been established by doctors but is yet to receive a full medical diagnosis - means she also meets ICC criteria and could play international women's cricket if selected and approved by the two governing bodies in the future.
"That condition means I'm eligible to play women's sport at any level, in any sport, naturally," she says.
"A lot of the debate that's been going on and around doesn't actually apply to myself."
Blythin has also described how her transition has involved taking the hormones necessary to fulfil a female puberty.
She says she is volunteering information about both her biology and gender identity due to the scrutiny she has faced in recent months. She wants to outline her condition in order to correct the media outlets who have previously speculated on her biology.
Blythin's statement reads: "I feel that it is important to correct and clarify any conjecture around my physicality and biology.
"Due to my profile as a women's county cricket player, I have been unwillingly used as a case study in reports - often inaccurate - discussing transgender inclusion in sport, particularly in relation to debates about whether trans women should be subject to a medical or social model. The former requires trans women to take hormones to suppress their testosterone to a required level, and the latter is based on one's own self-identified gender.
"While this is an incredibly important matter that deserves to be treated with care and consideration, I want to make clear that due to the condition I was born with, this specific debate does not apply to me.
"The natural levels of testosterone within my body mean that I am fully eligible to play women's cricket at all levels, regardless of any medical intervention - this has always been the case."
Blythin's low testosterone levels
Maxine Blythin says her testosterone concentration is in the region of 1 nmol/L (one nanomole per litre of blood). The general range for a woman who is cisgender - a woman whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth - is 0.5 to 2.5 nmol/L. The range for a cisgender man is 10 to 35 nmol/L.
'The processes are slow'
So far, Blythin has limited medical information about her condition but is now pursuing a more detailed diagnosis through the NHS.
"A lot of the conversations around that time were of various things that it could be, whether it be intersex or other," she tells Sportswomen on Sky Sports News.
"But that wasn't something I wanted to be tested. I didn't feel like it changed who I was - how I grew up and developed - and I didn't see any long-term physical or medical issues that could come from it.
"I didn't need to know. It didn't impact my life. It's only in the last month I've been going down the avenues to try and work out what that is, but the processes are slow. What actually caused my condition, I don't know just yet."
What is intersex?
Blythin says the condition she was born with has not yet been medically diagnosed in full. A symptom such as low testosterone levels can be caused by any of a range of conditions and/or intersex variations.
These include chromosomal intersex conditions that fall within the hypogonadism syndrome. People with primary hypogonadism - a congenital disorder of sex development (DSD) - are almost always unaware they have such a condition until the time that the puberty process is expected to occur.
Studies have shown that between 8.5% and 20% of individuals with DSDs also experience gender dysphoria. Some of those individuals will later transition.
Blythin is over 6ft tall, and this has been a point of reference in much of the commentary surrounding her participation in women's cricket. Her height could be a symptom of her condition, but she says there may be an alternative explanation.
"I've got a tall dad, a tall mum - I'm quite normal-sized for my family. My sister's pretty tall as well. Likewise, there are intersex conditions that can cause you to be a little taller."
The conjecture surrounding Blythin's participation in domestic women's cricket has escalated in recent weeks, once news of her club award at Kent began to circulate more widely. The 2019 season was her first playing county-level cricket, with her batting averages for both Women's County One-Day Championship and T20 matches placing her ninth overall in each of those competitions.
At club level, Blythin has also played in 'open cricket' - matches in which the vast majority of players are men, but in which women often participate as well. Comparisons have frequently been drawn between her statistics in open cricket and the women's game, sometimes leading to confusion.
Policies and protections
Blythin has also been subjected to repeated misgendering on social media. Earlier in November, Twitter removed several tweets which referenced the Kent player - including posts by the media personalities Katie Hopkins and Julia Hartley-Brewer - which platform moderators determined to have violated its hateful conduct policy. This policy states that "targeted misgendering" constitutes degrading behaviour.
Twitter just locked my account for *this* tweet about a transgender cricketer. I’ve covered up the name so my account isn’t locked again. The cricketer is openly living as a trans woman and is a biologically intact man. What privacy law have I violated? @TwitterSupport @Twitter pic.twitter.com/0LQq0Y22IL— Julia Hartley-Brewer (@JuliaHB1) November 14, 2019
Hopkins had written: ""Women" Player of the Year. Another kick in the ovaries for biological females everywhere. What is wrong with you @KentCricket Our daughters deserve better than this b****cks."
Before the removal of Hopkins' post by Twitter, Tammy Beaumont - Blythin's club captain at Kent - replied in defence of her team-mate, while Hampshire's Fi Morris tweeted her support too.
1/3 Completely disagree. Cricket is a sport for all and no one should be excluded because of who they are. Using your platform to spread an ill-informed opinion and factually inaccurate article like this is will only add to the discrimination and abuse she’s already come across! https://t.co/JxXIbw4jpL— Tammy Beaumont (@Tammy_Beaumont) November 6, 2019
As a ‘biological female’ who has played against Maxine this really isn’t a kick in the ovaries. Maybe instead of spreading hate, everyone should celebrate the achievements of Maxine who is a pleasure to play against and had a hella good season. https://t.co/iNQCVFOz1R— Fi Morris (@FiMorris8) November 6, 2019
Blythin is grateful to Beaumont, Morris and all those in cricket - team-mates, opposition players, the ECB, and others - who have rallied around her, and says now is the right time to address the situation herself.
"Having someone who openly shows their support despite knowing what backlash you could get from it - from people who don't know anything about my story, anything about biology, anything about who I am or what I'm doing - is very brave, and something I appreciate a lot.
"It's very tough for me to come out and say something myself. You have to wait for it to die down before you can actually articulate your story properly."
Blythin says she has also received hate mail "through several channels" and that the impact on those closest to her - including her fiancée Katie, and her parents - has caused considerable frustration and angst.
"It's definitely hit family and friends hardest. They're seeing a family member being portrayed in a way that they're not, by people who do not know that person and do not know their story.
"They want to be able to protect. They want to scream and shout, and correct, and say 'you're getting it all wrong' when they can't."
The ECB's current trans inclusion policy allows anyone who self-identifies as a woman to play domestic matches - a social rather than a medical policy. The governing body said in August that this specific regulation formed part of an ongoing review of its governance policies.
Meanwhile, the ICC's policy for trans women to play international cricket is more stringent. Eligibility requires a written and signed declaration of a gender identity of female; the demonstration to an expert panel of a testosterone concentration below 5 nmol/L for a period of at least 12 months; and that the applicant "is ready, willing and able to continue to keep it below that level for so long as she continues to compete in the female category of competition".
Blythin says that, like any cricketer, she would relish the opportunity to play for England one day but insists she is "a realist" about the prospect, having only played one county season thus far in her career.
"If I was invited to, it would be the biggest privilege of my life. Speaking to people who have played at that level, even for just one game, it was one of the biggest occasions of their sporting lives.
"I would 100% say yes. I'm not expecting it, but I would say yes."
Watch the full interview with Maxine Blythin on Sportswomen, available On Demand.
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