Let Her Play
I just read yet another article clearly laying out that transgender women and girls belong in sports. This wasn’t in The Advocate or Out Magazine. It wasn’t from any source focused specifically on lgbtqia+ or queer issues. It was by Scientific American, a publication that has been around for well over a hundred years and whose stated mission is solely to transmit science and scientific discoveries to lay people. I’m pointing this out, not because queer publications and publishing houses aren’t amazing and vital, they absolutely are, but because this information isn’t coming from some “agenda” or theory, the way anti-trans rhetoric is. This information is brought to you by rigor and data, from observation and thoughtful practices to limit bias. It is mainstream, accepted science.
The inclusion of transgender women and girls in sports, and the fairness of doing so, poses no threat to cisgendered athletes, but the invasive testing and panic around which girls are “real” and how that is defined and by who, that absolutely does. That practice has a very long and very racist history. I don't know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t want my children to go through a strip search and genetic testing just to play middle school softball. Since 2004, the Olympics have had trans-inclusive policies, yet women’s Gold, Silver and Bronze medals have gone almost exclusively to cisgender women. A single medal has been awarded to a non-binary athlete playing for Canada’s women’s soccer team. I should mention for clarity, that player was assigned female at birth. Trans-women are not sweeping the games or pushing cisgendered competitors to the side. That is fact, measurable fact. Also, if we are talking about elementary or middle school softball, isn’t it just supposed to be about learning some skills and having fun? The challenges of being a kid in this world can be heavy, and being a transgender kid can come with difficulties no one should have to face.
All this also leaves out the many variations and mutability of biological sex to begin with. Statistics from the Intersex Campaign for Equality put the world’s percentage of people with intersex traits at about 1.7%, roughly the same percentage of people that have red hair. Intersex people shouldn’t be excluded from sports for existing just as they are. The differences between one cisgendered woman and another alone are VAST. Prior to my transition, I loved playing basketball. I played all the time at a bald hoop over dusty well-trod dirt that was part of the apartment complex where I grew up. I got up my nerve, and I tried out for the school team, but at a height of under 5’ at the time, unsurprisingly, I was not what the coach was looking for. Nobody would be shocked by this story. Nobody would care, because when it comes to competitive sports, some inborn traits, like height, may give an advantage, but those traits are typically celebrated in cisgendered athletes, especially in men’s sports. If there is a problem in sports, it is parity, in availability, resources and pay with the teams of men and boys. It’s abusive cisgendered male coaches like Larry Nassar that are protected by colleges and institutions. There’s a lot to fix in the sporting world, but these bans on trans athletes are a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist.
I hope you read this article from Scientific American, it covers a lot that I haven’t touched on here with very clear data, but it should suffice to say that excluding trans women from sports hurts all women, and excluding trans girls from them, a group that already suffers higher rates of bullying, anxiety and depression, has nothing to do with fairness. It’s simply cruel.