Why the Trans Hate?, Part IX: The Sporting Life
We have received so very many comments on this subject that we can summon up a set of comments on just about any
theme. In view of the machinations in Kansas, then, how about some comments on trans girls and sports? Note that it is
true that some of these folks are responding to past commenters, so we're slightly breaking our general rule of putting
those comments in the Sunday mailbag. Oh well, go ahead and sue us; you can reach our staff counsel at the offices of
Dewey, Cheatem & Howe.
- E.S. in Maine, NY: One question about trans woman in sports I would love to ask those
people with their knickers in a twist: "If the Olympics were to allow trans athletes to compete, how long do you
think it would take for trans women to win lots of medals, and perhaps even dominate the medal-winning?"
Of course, this is a trick question. The Olympics have allowed trans athletes to compete since 2006 and none have won a
In July 2021, Canadian non-binary soccer player Quinn became the first transgender Olympian to win a medal and to win a
- B.C. in Soldotna, AK: In response to
M.J. in Granger,
who writes "I am concerned about the sports aspect of this debate." and
"Maybe someone else has a
good compromise to balance out each side?"
From a pure biologic and endocrinological perspective, taking hormones for a few years does not remove all the
advantages of being born male. Years of hormones wouldn't stop me from being 6'2" with 220-ish lb. body. Nor would it
remove all the calcium from my bones or slow my reaction times or make my arms or hands smaller, all of which confer a
distinct advantage in almost all sports.
So, let's ditch the men's label all together and label all high level sports as "open." The cis women two standard
deviations from the norm can join the "open" competition and beat all the cis boys. The trans women can join and
legitimately compete in the open and so can everyone else. Make specific categories for "trans women" maybe or "cis
women" but leave the upper echelon of competition genderless knowing that it will mostly be boys beating up boys but
would be inclusive to everyone and allow all the truly amazing athletes to enjoy sport.
- M.M. in Plano, TX: The issue of male-to-female trans athletes in women's sports brings up
another issue: Who settles sports controversies? In the United States, government at all levels has stayed clear of
all sports controversies. Government and politicians have not decided whether a baseball bat has too much pine tar,
whether a basketball player is hanging onto the hoop, whether a derby horse has bumped a competitor, or whether
footballs are properly inflated. We have no ministry of sport. We are not East Germany. Questions like these are up
to the leagues or the sanctioning bodies. So too with questions of eligibility (including what gender is for the
purpose of sport), and who can play in which division or class. Weight classes, as in boxing, may be worth looking at
for other sports. But American politicians should stay away from the issue.
- J.L. in Paterson, NJ: M.J. in Grange asks whether there's a good compromise in
athletics. I disagree with the absolutist position that trans athletes should never be allowed in girls' or women's
events. On the other hand, M.J. has a valid concern about fairness. The first estrogen injection at the start of the
transition process does not immediately deprive an athlete of all the advantages that males have by virtue of sex.
compromise adopted by the NCAA
for collegiate athletics is complex (and is itself in transition!), but can be summarized as conditioning eligibility on
a one-year transition period plus a current testosterone level that falls below the maximum allowable level for that
sport. Yes, there are presumably some exceptional cis women who naturally have higher testosterone, just as there are
some who are 6 feet tall. We can reasonably distinguish advantages like those from the advantages that come from the XY
genotype. As M.J. wrote, we have girls' sports for a reason. The NCAA's compromise strikes me as fair.
- N.D.O. in Portland, OR: I understand M.J.'s position, but as this website is so
deeply-vested in numbers (polling, voting, demographics, etc.), I would ask that everyone keep in mind how
staggeringly-rare this sort of thing is.
In M.J.'s state (Indiana), there are 85,726 tenth graders, roughly 43,000 of which are girls, and 860 of which are trans
girls. While 70% of students participate in sports of some sort, only 12% of trans girls do, leaving us with roughly 103
students in your state who potentially could be trans girls participating in 10th grade sports, out of a girl athlete
corps of roughly 30,100.
That's 0.3% of girl athletes, and 0.1% of the student body overall.
I'm not saying your worries are invalid. I am saying that 0.3% is a very small number, and perspective is important.
Now, please keep in mind that medical transition, if done early enough, often involves puberty
blockers—eliminating the very advantages people like M. J. express concern about—making 0.3% more like 0%.
This is why most of those 103 girls have flown under the radar so far: they are mostly average kids with average
Really. Sports is famously a statistics-heavy world, so please pick your favorite sport, and look up the rankings of as
many trans girl athletes as you can (they tend to make the news, so while extremely-rare, they aren't hard to find). I
suspect you will find a few ranked in the upper echelons, a few in the lower echelons, and most... just kinda average.
As bigots leverage the fear of 0.1% of students to influence otherwise-reasonable people to, if not support, then at
least not strenuously oppose legislating oppression, the trans girls will have to go through male puberty. They won't,
however, stop being trans girls.
- R.L. in Alameda, CA: I've been watching and commenting on the "why the trans hate" thread
with interest. After taking a breather to allow space for actual trans people to comment, I have more thoughts. My
context in this discussion is this. I am a straight, white, cis-gendered man. However, I have two queer kids. My
daughter is gay. My other child is non-binary. And I have plenty of friends who are some flavor of queer. (As many in
the community do, I'm using the word "queer" as a catch-all phrase to describe anyone who identifies with one or more of
the letters in LGBTQ, etc.). So while I'll never have the experience of being queer, I am adjacent to and witness to the
experience that queer people have in the world. Since two of these people are my (adult) children, I take in much of
this witnessing on a very personal level.
Many of the comments speak for me and I won't repeat here what has already been said. (Thank you to those who have
pushed back against
L.E. in Putnam County.
I, too, was offended and the already published comments are way better spoken than anything I could have written). There
are two items that I'd like to address. First is a response to R.C. in Madison, because they named me. I had written,
"no parent is transitioning their son into a daughter in order to win a state championship" to which they responded, "If
that's the case, then the daughter could compete against the boys and you shouldn't have a problem with policies
restricting girls' and women's sports based on, for example, the indicator on the athlete's original birth certificate."
I guess they missed my point. So I'll try again.
What I'm talking about here is (for example) a self-identified girl who just wants to play soccer with her friends. So
you have a kid who looks like a girl, acts like a girl, is mostly friends with girls and wants to play sports with her
girlfriends. And you think she should be compelled to play on a boy's team because, as a minor, she still has a penis
(because no sexual reassignment surgery can or likely ever will be done on a minor)? This is sheer cruelty to a kid who
is trying against all odds to establish her identity as a girl. No one is hurt by letting her play with girls. No one.
Remember that we are talking about games played by children. Perhaps, at a professional level, where big money is
involved, this is a different conversation. But not here, in youth sports. And when we don't allow the trans girl to
play with other girls, harm is done to her. Is it too much to ask to do the least amount of harm?
I'd also like to respond to B.C. in Phoenix, who wrote, "...nobody is gonna dictate to me what pronouns I need to use
when the topic requires gender references. If you look female, I'm going to use "she," "her" and "hers." If you look
male, I'm going to say "he," "him" and "his." "They," "them" and "theirs" is reserved for groups, not individuals. I've
been speaking and writing English following those rules for way too long to change".
Really? You are unable to learn and use words in new ways? Words change all the time. In our lifetimes, Gen-Xers have
seen "Negro" become "African American" become "Black." "Liberal" has become "Progressive." "PC" has become "woke."
"Cellular" has become "mobile." I could go on. It takes effort to retrain my brain to use they/them for a singular
person. I and others in my generation accidentally mis-gender our trans and non-binary friends and family all the time
(I've observed that trans and non-binary people develop a great deal of grace, because they get mis-gendered frequently,
sometimes unintentionally and sometimes by people like B.C.). It's worth the effort to honor my child's identity. B.C.'s
statement that they won't even try is offensive.
Here's an analogy. My first name is Robert. I go by "Robert" or "Rob" in the world. I've never been a "Bob." If someone
meets me and presumes to call me "Bob," I will politely correct them and that is the end of it. What if B.C. declared
that all "Roberts" should be "Bobs" and nobody is going to dictate to them what version of a name they need to use? This
would be offensive to me and I doubt they would do this anyway. How is refusing to use a person's requested pronouns any
different? You refuse to even try? Isn't it worth a little bit of effort to honor how a person self-identifies? Is it
really that big a deal to try to use they/them in the singular? Does it harm anyone to make a teensy bit of effort?
Thanks, all! We'll bring it on home tomorrow. (Z)
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