Sometimes it’s easier to make a point simply by asking a thoughtful question: Why do those who believe biological sex is not gender dependent insist competitive athletics are?
While the chances of any cisgender female athlete at any level having a championship (or other) victory taken from her by a transgender girl or woman is relatively small, these stories surface quickly in the news cycle mostly because of their inherent sense of unfairness, and less so because of the achievement of any inspirational historic milestone of gender progress.
Biologically, males will almost always dominate females, at least in most sports. They dominate because of their bigger, stronger and faster bodies. Only science deniers and gender Flat Earthers dispute this. If it weren’t true, competitive sporting leagues would not be divided along these lines.
Of course, the situation becomes a bit more complicated because transgender individuals undergoing hormone therapy may dampen the physical manifestation of their innate biology. But the idea that this therapy can create the equal manifestation of an XX chromosome in an XY individual is simply wrong. While post-puberty hormone treatment can in some cases allow a biological male with gender dysphoria to feel closer to how they identify internally, it does not create female identicality. Biologically they are still male, just striving to get closer to how they feel internally.
Idaho state Rep. Barbara Ehardt is planning to introduce legislation this year that would address the issue on the high school level. No stranger to athletics, Ehardt’s years of experience as a Division I basketball player and coach fuel her passion to protect the progress women and girls have made in sports under Title IX. It’s not clear yet what her legislation will include specifically, but will likely require high school athletes to compete on teams and against athletes matching their physical biology.
Aren’t most lines of separation and stratification in any organized sport based on physicality? From pee-wee and youth leagues, on up through high school, college, semi pro and the nation’s premier sports leagues — these subsequent levels are determined by the physicality of the players. The division of sports between opposite sex peers has largely been created for the same reason: physicality.
Separating the concept of gender from biological sex has created a very hard-to-navigate house of mirrors for most folks who happen to be fans of both common sense and also to not be considered bigots for it — but it’s also a fertile environment for the “woke” to mass produce accusations of bigotry, too — because some of them force the false choice of either hatred — or being all-in on prevailing LGBTQ narratives. That approach scares away the good questions and the substantive discussions.
Having questions is not bigotry, nor is thinking it’s common sense that in organized competitive sports, biological male athletes should compete only against each other, as should their biological female counterparts. If a transwoman can work in an office with male coworkers or have dinner with male friends from college, why is it so egregious to expect them to compete — in the spirit of physical parity — against their biological peers on a court, field or track? It is not as though track and field is a requisite gender-affirming activity. It’s just track and field. Yet, for the transgender athlete that scenario is socially intolerable.
Right or wrong, the binary division in sports evolved in a structure where biology and gender were not only inseparable, they were indistinguishable. If we have learned that gender exists independent of biology — in the spirit of fair play — the binary system becomes inadequate because it offers only an impossible choice between intolerable social discomfort on one side, and blatant unfairness on the other. I don’t have a good solution, honestly, because segregating transgender athletes into their own league in a quadrenary system may be logically defensible, but societally reprehensible.
But I’ll end as I began. If gender is a concept independent of biology, why must it be affixed to one side or the other in athletics?
Associated Press award-winning columnist Neal Larson of Idaho Falls is the author of “Living in Spin.” He is a conservative talk show host on KID Newsradio 106.3 and 92.1, and also at www.kidnewsradio.com. “The Neal Larson Show” can be heard weekday mornings from 6:00 to 10:00. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org