Huskies respond to the debate over transgender athletes

Images provided by ACLU. Top: Transgender athletes running.

In the past decade of American politics, LGBTQ issues have come to the forefront of the national debate. The topic of transgender athletes participating in sports with the gender they identify with, specifically transgender women participating in women’s sports, has risen to the top of this debate due to sport’s deep roots in American culture. One side of the debate argues that athletes who were assigned as the male sex at birth but identify as female have the right to participate in women’s sports. On the other hand, some believe that to protect the fairness of women’s sports, those assigned as the male sex at birth cannot be allowed to participate.

Currently, California Assembly Bill 1266 allows transgender athletes to participate in whichever division of sport that they feel comfortable in, a policy followed in thirteen other states and Washington D.C. This law is supported by CIF (California’s high school sports governing body) policy affirming the principles in the state law. These policies have had a tangible impact on Washington’s athletics. The Washington Cross Country team has had a transgender athlete participate on their team, featured in The Mercury News. Ben Vose, Washington’s Cross Country Coach, claims this athlete, Cal, was supported at Washington: “Cal was not discriminated against on the team.” On the other hand, twenty-six states have laws either partially or fully restricting access to athletics to transgender athletes. On a national level, Americans are extremely split on this issue. In a Morning Consult poll from April 2021, 41% of Americans claimed to support high school athletes of the male sex who identify as female being able to participate in women’s athletics while 41% of Americans also claimed to oppose the same prompt. Evidently, this issue divides America as a whole, but what do Huskies have to say?

On one side of the debate, there are those who believe in few to no restrictions on the ability of transgender athletes to participate in the division of sport of their choosing. A common argument for this side is that if an athlete who has transitioned from male to female has reduced their levels of testosterone, there is no problem with them participating in women’s athletics, as there are women with elevated testosterone levels that are permitted to participate in women’s sports. Rhea Jain, a junior at Washington, supports the notion that transgender athletes should be able to participate in the sports they desire without the binary of “men’s” and “women’s” sports. “If someone was a trans person and was horrible at sports, no one would have a second glance, but if someone gets better, then it’s ‘all because they’re trans,’” she says. Jeremy Su, a transgender senior  at Washington, argues that testosterone is just one of many pieces that makes athletes perform well. “[The concern about testosterone levels] undermines the importance of other aspects required to be good at sports,” he says. Another argument is that participation by transgender athletes is critical for their mental health and for normalizing transgender inclusiveness to the general public. 

Map of US states’ stances on transgender students’ participation in public school sports.
Green: laws protecting transgender athletes, yellow: some restrictions, red: restrictive laws, gray: no state guidance
.

However, others believe that to protect the fairness of women’s athletics, biological men who have transitioned to female cannot be allowed to participate in women’s athletics. Washington High School’s wrestling coach, Wesley Bowls, argues that biological males simply have too dominant an advantage over biological females in athletics to be allowed to participate in women’s sports. “There are a lot of advantages that the male body has over the female body in terms of athletic performance that just doesn’t make it fair,” he says. Coach Bowls cited a dramatic increase in T-levels (a measurement of testosterone levels) in biological males over females of about 16 times, as well as the fact that the male and female bodies begin to significantly alter from each other when muscles develop during puberty. Coach Bowls also argued that transgender athletes could still participate in other co-ed leagues that exist, meaning they wouldn’t have to be left out of sports just for being transgender.

It appears that like the general public, Huskies have many opinions regarding the eligibility of transgender athletes in sports. Overall, however, most believe transgender athletes have the right to participate; they are just arguing about the extent to which they can.

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