“The very simple answer is that I’m not a man,” she said. “I’m a woman, so I belong on the women’s team. Trans people deserve that same respect every other athlete gets.”
Those are the words from University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer Lia Thomas during a recent interview with Sports Illustrated. Since Thomas’ sudden debut last year and subsequent wins in the 500-, 200- and 100-yard freestyle races, setting both pool and Ivy League records, the elephant in the room that many had hoped would fade away like Furbies and Rubik’s cubes, has simply refused to be ignored. As a result of stories like these, and Judge Ketanji Brown-Jackson’s notorious inability to decipher what a woman is, we find ourselves debating what was once believed to be a forgone conclusion: should biologically born men be allowed to compete as women against biologically born women?
What is the harm, anyway? Good questions.
Let us consider, for example, the case of MMA fighter Tamika Brents. For many of us, as parents, we dreamed of letting our little girls one day compete in sports. This was, of course, the case in the Black community as well. Seeing the likes of track stars Florence Griffith Joyner, and her sister-in-law, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, as well as tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams paving the way, these ladies were inspiring to many. This was no doubt the thinking of Tamika Brents’ parents.
All her life, she clearly had the athletic prowess to do anything that sports required. After the military, she joined the Women’s Mixed Martial Arts, the women’s competition of the full contact sport. However, nothing could have prepared her for what was to occur on September 13th, 2014. It was during this meeting with 39-year-old Fallon Fox, that 26-year-old Tamika competed against in their first and last female MMA match up at the CCW: The Undertaking Event. The result was a TKO by Fox at only 2 minutes and 17 seconds. During this matchup, Tamika suffered a concussion and fractured the orbital bone in her skull. Fox did not let up until Brents was down after the count. Despite all appearances and their respective records, Tamika never stood a chance, because Fallon Fox was biologically born a man.
Despite all the rhetoric and moot debates, men and women are not the same.
Although this seems like a commonsense argument, the debate over transgender people in sports is becoming increasingly commonplace.
Take for example, the stories of Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, and Alanna Smith- all students of Canton High School in Connecticut. At the 2019 Track & Field Championships, Selina Soule finished third place, edged out in both 1st and 2nd place by two biological competing males, thus, not qualifying during an important run-in front of observing college scouts. As an amazing high school sprinter, Chelsea Mitchell was her way to achieving state titles and awards. Chelsea lost four championship titles to those same biologically male-born athletes.
Likewise, was the story of Alanna Smith. With a promising future as well, Alanna won the 400-meter dash during the 74th New England Championship in 2019-as a freshman. Though no males competed in that race, once again, a biologically born male bumped her to third place in the 200-meter dash. Echoing her fellow track mates, Soule states: “Just like my fellow competitors, I race to win, but that’s virtually impossible now in an unlevel playing field.”
Fighting back doesn’t produce any quick wins.
Selina Soule’s mother said this concerning the affront facing her daughter, Selina’s friends, and a number of young girls escalating by the day: “I am the mother of an elite track-and-field athlete in Connecticut. Through our attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, my daughter, Selina Soule, and I filed suit in February with two other female athletes and their mothers to challenge Connecticut’s policy of allowing biological boys to compete in girls’ sports. Connecticut is one of at least seventeen states that allow this. Yet, Selina’s future is at risk because the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference allows athletes to compete based on gender identity rather than biological sex in violation of Title IX, as the Department of Education recognized. And she isn’t the only young woman whose ability to compete on a level playing field has been taken away because of this policy.”
As of this writing, this case is currently being decided.
Unfortunately, such issues are not just restricted to high school sports.
While policies vary from state and school district, recommendations at the k-12 levels have increased for including transgender youths to compete in the preferred sport of their gender affirmation. According to the Transgender Law & Policy Institute’s document, Guidelines for Creating Policies for Transgender Children in Recreational Sports, it states the following: “All young people should have the opportunity to play recreational sports and have their personal dignity respected.
Transgender young people are no different. In fact, because transgender young people often must overcome significant stigma and challenges, it would be particularly harmful to exclude them from the significant physical, mental, and social benefits that young people gain by playing recreational sports. The impact of such discrimination can be severe and can cause lifelong harm. In contrast, permitting transgender children and youth to participate in recreational sports in their affirmed gender can provide an enormous boost to their self-confidence and self-esteem and provide them with positive experiences that will help them in all other areas of their lives.”
If that were not shocking enough, by example, those same guidelines in California reflect the same focus: “All students should have the opportunity to participate in CIF activities in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on a student’s records.”
With many state policies echoing California’s, this is no longer a movement. For many, this is status quo- i.e., “the new normal.”
Perhaps this not an area of concern for you yet. However, I submit to you that many of us took the same position when it came to LGBTQ rights, policies, and agendas. Yet, years later, those same statutes are knocking down the doors of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and even that of our local congregations. Like many of the laws that we oppose, we are still afforded an opportunity to prevent those legislators from being voted in. For those who are already seated in the legislature, we can vote them out in 2022. However, we must stand in the gap for those yet unable to vote, to prevent their rights from being eroded before they even have a say in the matter. It’s not too late.