Feb 15, 2024, 06:24AM

The Endless Transgender Debate

The issue regarding transgender athletes participating in gendered sports has no end in sight.

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Debate over transgender athletic participation dates back to when I was in high school. I remember hearing about transgender mixed martial arts fighter Fallon Fox, a male, beating up women in the Octagon in the early-2010s. It's now 2024, and the issue remains as divisive as ever.

One side fully supports transgender rights and thinks people should be able to change genders and have the same rights as members of the opposite sex.

Some, like me, think changing one's gender is impossible, no matter what one does to themselves. They’re always either a male or a female—or closer to one of those two options than the other in the case of intersex people. Others may support a buffet of transgender rights, where they think people can change their gender, but since transgender individuals are not really members of the opposite sex, some limit on transgender rights must exist.

Athletic participation is among the most common limits people support because we typically segregate sports based on sex. Schools have boys' basketball teams and girls' basketball teams. People understand that boys, on average, have an athletic advantage over girls; this is also why boys' basketball teams never play girls' basketball teams in regular or post-season competition.

The side that opposes transgender athletic participation can point to facts and data about the average height, weight, muscle mass, pelvic structure, bone density, and testosterone levels, and that’ll help influence public opinion, but it will never settle the debate. The ACLU will tell you that trans girls are girls, just like any other girls, and that they have no athletic advantage because they vary in athletic ability, like all other athletes. I think that's a false balance in the way that the opinions of a doctor and a tobacco industry lobbyist lack equal value. One must also acknowledge, in both instances, that both sides represent the way people in power think.

A stronger argument for the pro-transgender athlete side is the rarity of these transgender athlete victories—an argument that continually loses validity. In New England, there are several recent instances. The two Connecticut track runners in the 2010s (and 2020), Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, racked up a combined 15 state titles. In 2023, Chloe Barnes helped Brookline High win a team state title for girls' track in Massachusetts, and earlier this week, Maelle Jacques won a state title in New Hampshire in the girls' high jump. That's in addition to Former Franklin Pierce (Keene, New Hampshire) track runner CeCe Telfer winning an NCAA Division 2 national title in the 400-meter dash; Telfer won the title in 2019.

Jacques, the aforementioned track athlete from New Hampshire, is a sophomore this year, giving the competitor several more opportunities to win state titles in the high jump at 1500- and 1600-meter dashes in winter and spring track seasons to follow. In bordering Maine, Soren Stark-Chessa, a high school sophomore, placed third at the state title meet for cross country this past fall, meaning Stark-Chessa appears likely to win a state title in 2024 or 2025. I also know of an instance of a transgender player dominating girls' basketball in Massachusetts—and winning a state championship—that I can’t say anything about because I won’t out a minor who’s not open about their transgender identity.

Liberal Republican lawmakers and most Democratic lawmakers support transgender athletic participation, though many voters in both parties disagree. In the states and entities where these transgender athlete victories happen, politicians will do nothing to prevent further instances of it occurring. Does anyone think the Democratic trifectas in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maine state governments will ban males from participating in women's sports? New Hampshire is even a stretch; it’s in its fourth year of a state government Republican trifecta, and the state still lets this happen. And does anyone think the U.S. Senate will ever have the 60 votes necessary to prevent this from happening when, federally, Democrats nearly universally oppose such measures? Of course not, but it gives Republicans a minor but solid wedge issue moving forward.


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