Trans Athletes Deserve Respect


art by caeli harman

Max Fitzgerald, News Editor & Associate Editor-in-Chief

On January 21, 2021 in the 117th Congress, United States Representative Greg Steube reintroduced his 2019 legislation “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act”, proposed to “ensure that women and girls are allowed a fair playing field in competitive sports by ensuring that school athletics comply with the Title IX recognition of a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth”, as described on his website.

The language in this statement is a little confusing, especially for people that are unfamiliar with the transgender community and trans issues. Essentially, Stuebe is proposing that transgender girls and women should be prohibited from participating in school athletics with their cisgender female peers on the basis of their genetalia and assigned gender at birth, because they would hold an unfair advantage. The legislation made no mention of transgender boys and men playing in male sports. 

One concern raised with determining eligibility in school sports based on reproductive biology is the possibility of genital exams– physical exams that would require all female athletes to prove that they are not transgender through an examination of their genitals. Due to the vague wording of Stuebe’s legislation, some believe this practice could potentially be implemented if it passes. 

Thankfully, it’s unlikely that this bill will go much further. Despite its support from House Republicans as well as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, it is only in the first stage of the legislative process, having been sent to the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee. It would need to be passed by both the House and Senate, and then signed by the President, and Joe Biden has made his support for the LGBT+ community clear– enacting an executive order on his first day in office with policy stating “children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sport.” 

Regardless of whether the bill passes or not, beliefs like Steube’s are all too common, and transphobia– specifically targeting BIPOC transgender women– will remain a big issue in America. Preventing trans girls in school from playing in sports that align with their gender might not seem like the end of the world, but it discriminates against and very intentionally alienates transgender women from their peers, something that many trans people already struggle with. 

Trans people are not at an inherent advantage or disadvantage in sports because of their transness. Cisgender athletes have different levels of ability, and the same is true for trans athletes. The assumption that trans women pose some sort of threat in competitive sports against cisgender women is based largely in ignorance and transphobia rather than genuine worry about unfair competition. Many trans people choose to go through Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)- in which they are given hormones that match their gender identity, and promote the development of gender-affirming characteristics. Trans women that choose to go on Estrogen experience traditionally feminine changes to their body over time, including breast development, fat redistribution, and decreased muscle mass (etc) similar to cisgender women. Equating trans women to men in any context is inaccurate, but definitely has no place in athletics.

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