By Sarah Nicell || Layout Assistant
Despite hopes that the Equality Act would provide progress for the LGBTQ+ community, the recent debate surrounding the inclusion of transgender individuals in sports has put queer existences at risk once again. Utah has passed a bill that prohibits transgender girls from playing on girls’ K-12 sports teams, and South Carolina has continued to debate a bill that would “ban transgender women from playing on women’s sports teams” (kansascity.com). Furthermore, Kansas Senator Roger Marshall is fighting to ensure that President Biden’s COVID-19 bill will not provide aid to schools that permit transgender students to play on women’s teams. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a controversial Georgia representative, has posted a sign outside of her office that reads: “There are two genders: male and female. ‘Trust the science!’”
Why do conservatives feel that banning transgender people from their desired sports teams is necessary in 2021? Why are people so committed to feminist ideals only when they are trans-exclusionary? Here I will attempt to answer these questions and argue that transgender people, specifically transgender women, deserve the right to compete.
Those that argue that transgender individuals should not be permitted to play for sports teams that align with their gender identification typically utilize the following three points: A) allowing transgender women to play for women’s sports teams is unfair to their AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) opponents because people who are AMAB (Assigned Male At Birth) are inherently stronger; B) sports teams should be based upon biology; C) transgender people are invalid.
First, we will address Point A. The claim that permitting transgender women to play for women’s sports teams is unfair for biological females is rooted in misogyny. It incorrectly assumes that women are incapable of competing with anyone who was assigned male at birth, which is a false statement. Even if transgender women had the same average strength and skill as the average biological male (which is untrue; every person is different, especially among the trans community), all biological males are not stronger than all biological females. This stereotype is enforced by an archaic notion that girls are weak and boys are strong, a claim that is taught at birth and has perpetuated harmful and sexist gender roles for centuries.
Furthermore, if you are concerned about the fairness of sports, perhaps you should pay closer attention to actual threats to the integrity of athletics. Access to training, high-level teams, and equipment depend directly on class and income, which leads those in poverty to have a difficult time achieving competitive success. Connections to famous competitors are often necessary to advance athletic careers, which is not fair to those without opportunities to meet wealthy players and coaches. People cheat and scam in professional sports all the time, but it seems, when you are cisgender, that it’s just part of the game. Most AFAB women will never face a transgender woman opponent in their lives, so why care at all?
It is also worth noting that women in professional sports receive far less media coverage and money than men in the same field. If people care so much about the fairness of women’s sports, why would they not pay them the same as men? If people care so much about protecting women’s sports, why not actually watch women’s sports? Why not expand their fanbase? If you do not pay as much attention to female athletes as you do males, you have no right to call into question the place of transgender women in sports because you never cared about women, to begin with.
Don’t pretend that gatekeeping sports is for the protection of women because it’s not. If you want to invalidate a minority of women due to their background, that is misogyny, and it is disgusting.
The next point that I will be refuting is that sports should be based upon biology. If your reasoning for excluding transgender people from their genders’ sports teams is because you believe that their biology is too different to compete with AFAB women, you are quite wrong. While it is true that AFAB women tend to have much lower testosterone levels than AMAB individuals, both intersex people—who are subject to normalization surgeries to force them into the sex dichotomy as female— and AFAB women can also have testosterone levels that are high enough to diverge from what is considered normal for their sex. For example, Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya possesses an excess of testosterone that has rendered her ineligible to compete unless she takes medication to decrease her male hormones. This is another sexist practice that targets women even when they are AFAB.
The existence of hormonal abnormalities in males and females contradicts the idea that even sex biology is invariable. Transgender people also often take hormone blockers and go through hormone replacement therapy, but this should not be a necessity if transgender athletes are permitted to play on their desired teams.
The final argument—that transgender people are simply invalid—is by far the most difficult to refute because it is solely based upon hate and intolerance. To claim that transgender women are not women is to exclude an entire demographic that is braver than any cisgender person I have ever met. Despite Marjorie Taylor Greene’s offensive sign, this perspective does not have science on its side. Transgender people are just as valid as anyone else, and to say otherwise makes you, to be blunt, an asshole.
It seems that we only care about the transgender population when they are thriving. According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 44 transgender and gender non-conforming individuals were murdered in 2020. Conservative politicians did not address these tragedies, nor did they show any type of care. Instead, they now choose to interfere with the lives of the LGBTQ+ community in an attempt to further oppress a group that has already lost so much this past year.
In the end, a sport is just a game. If you are that upset that a small percentage of the population is included, perhaps you are the problem.
First-year Sarah Nicell is a layout assistant. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.