Republican lawmakers’ crusade against transgender equality continues


by Laurel Wreath of Victors, marked with CC0 1.0

A protest for transgender rights in San Diego.

Monday, March 22, on the fifth anniversary of the introduction of House Bill 2, or the “Bathroom Bill,” another attack was launched on the transgender people living in North Carolina. This attack came in the form of the “Save Women’s Sports Act.”

House Bill 358, primarily sponsored by four cisgender Republicans—Mark Brody, Pat McElraft, Diane Wheatley and Jimmy Dixon—proposes that all intramural and intercollegiate athletic teams be designated as male, female, or coed.

It goes on to specify that teams or sports designated for women “shall not be open to students of the male sex,” with sex recognized as one’s reproductive biology or genetics at birth.

Rep. Mark Brody has defended the bill, stating, “I do not want to wait until biological females get pushed out of female sports and all their records are broken, scholarships lost and benefits of excelling are diminished before this is addressed.” 

Some former athletes also support the measure, with tennis champion Martina Navratilova arguing that a cis man could “decide to be female, take hormones… win everything in sight… then reverse his decision.”

Opponents of the bill claim that these arguments are rooted in transphobia.

 “The idea we should ban all immigrants because one or two might be terrorists is the height of racism, bigotry and xenophobia,” said sprint cyclist Rachel McKinnon. “So their argument is the very definition of an irrational fear of trans women, the dictionary definition of transphobia.”

It is also important to note that, despite similar bills being introduced in over 20 states this year, sponsors of these bills are almost always unable to cite problems caused by the participation of transgender athletes in their state’s sports. 

Lawmakers are split between claiming to prepare for a problem, with Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton claiming that the bill is “proactive,” and calling out successful transgender sprinters Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood in Connecticut. 

Transgender-rights attorney Chase Strangio claims, “This is not about sports. It’s a way to attack trans people.” 

In addition to potentially barring intersex athletes from competing at all, the bill would also force transgender men to compete on otherwise all-female teams.

A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine finds that trans women have an athletic advantage over cisgender women for up to their first two years on estrogen, with trans men averaging about a year before reaching equilibrium with their cis counterparts. The study’s lead author, Dr. Timothy Roberts, has spoken out against his research being used to bar transgender athletes from playing. 

“I’m definitely coming out and saying, ‘Hey, this doesn’t apply to recreational athletes, doesn’t apply to youth athletics,’” Roberts said. “At the recreational level, probably one year is sufficient for most people to be able to compete.”

 He also emphasized that his research was done on adults, and claimed that transgender women who transition before or at puberty have no advantage over cis women in terms of athletic performance. 

It is impossible to achieve a completely level playing field even among cisgender women. 

 “We have a lot of elite female athletes who tend to be tall and thin with slender hips… and we’re not outlawing them,” said Roberts. 

According to Roberts’s study, almost a third of adolescent female athletes who compete at the elite level have elevated testosterone levels thanks to conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome, compared to just 2-12% of the general female population.

The inclusion of transgender women is hardly the biggest issue facing women’s sports. The average salary of a WNBA player is around $100,000, while their counterparts in the NBA are paid an average of $7 million a year. Male soccer players on national teams make $300,000, while female players average $37,800. Perhaps it’s time to stop trying to prevent a problem that doesn’t exist and turn our focus to one that does.