Transgender women in sports

by Clare Tourtelotte, Sports Editor
graphic by Emily Cheng

If female sports were fair, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) March Madness tournaments would treat female and male basketball players equally. All athletes would be provided with equal amenities in their training areas, and professional U.S. soccer player Megan Rapinoe would be paid the same as her male counterparts. 

If female sports were fair, female athletes would receive the same amount of press, and reporters would not focus on male athletes while forgetting their female counterparts. If female sports were fair, the Newton South Athletics Department would hire an equivalent number of female head coaches as male head coaches, so the make up of head coaches would not be 78 percent male. The simple truth is that female sports are not fair.

 Not only do transgender women face the hurdles that female athletes do, they also regularly face misconceptions about whether or not they are real women. Physiologically, people who were assigned male at birth have higher muscle mass and lower percent body fat than women, so many claim that transgender women physiologically present an unfair advantage in sports. 

Although, among a group of gender-assigned girls at birth, some are inherently going to be faster and stronger than others — maybe they’re taller, have faster genes, or a faster metabolism. There are already advantages in sports because every athlete’s body is different, no matter if they’re cisgender or transgender. The idea that transgender women have a “leg-up” in sports not only shows a lack of understanding for transgender people, but is also a false and transphobic narrative. 

On April 23, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed House Bill 391, banning transgender youth from playing sports consistent with their gender identity, a practice that has been relatively undisturbed for years. Regardless of a child’s gender identity, we cannot take away their childhood by prohibiting them from playing sports on the team with which they identify. There are no stakes in youth sports, they are meant to be fun, carefree and accepting.  

In the face of the immense transphobia in our country, we must stand with transgender athletes. There is no factual evidence of unfair advantages exhibited by transgender women in sports, as every athlete inherently has certain strengths and weakness, regardless of if they are transgender. 

Lawmakers and people in leadership positions limit transgender women in sports because they claim to “care” about female sports. Those same people enable pay-gaps and unequal press coverage between male and female athletes. Using transgender female athletes as scapegoats to feign care for female sports needs to end. It is crucial that we include transgender athletes in sports that match their gender identity and we need to collectively start caring about female sports.