FOR THE #LETTRANSKIDSPLAY CAMPAIGN OF 6/15/2021: Download the printable sign and infographic slides here.
As of June 2021, at least 68 anti-trans sports bills, most of which target trans girls, have been proposed or enacted in the United States.
If you are wearing rainbows and calling yourself an ally this month and the rest of the year, we need your fight for trans athletes and trans girls, now.
Many of these bills are proposing very invasive testing – down to genital inspections of children. This is not only a clear violation of privacy but also massively transphobic. This is not about fairness.
Let’s break this down.
RESPONSES TO COMMON ARGUMENTS AGAINST TRANS GIRLS IN SPORT:
① “It’s not transphobic, it’s about fairness. Trans women are biological males and shouldn’t compete with women.”
We’ll start with language. If you claim you’re not transphobic, then you will use the most respectful terminology and call trans women what they are: women. Calling them “biological males” is not only potentially inaccurate (biological sex is not that simple) but also transphobic. If you need to differentiate trans and cis women, say that: trans and cis women. If you need to talk about folks with higher levels of testosterone, say that. If you need to talk about reproductive biology, say that.
② “Excluding trans girls protects girls’ sport.”
In order to exclude trans girls, there must be a method of verifying if someone is trans. Usually this is done through genital exams, hormone evaluation, and/or genetic testing. Most bills propose accusation-based testing: someone is accused of being trans and is then subject to testing. This not only demonizes and weaponizes transness, but it also endangers ALL girls & women. That is, ANY girl accused of being transgender can be checked.
Not only is this incredibly invasive (genital exams are wholly unnecessary — having or not having a penis has no effect on performance in sport), but it also is degrading to ALL women. That is, at what point is a girl good enough that she will then be accused of being transgender? How masculine can a girl be or look before she is accused of being transgender?
This proposed gender verification not only systemically enforces the policing of ALL women’s bodies, but also does so through demonizing and weaponizing transness.
③ “Trans women have higher levels of testosterone so it’s unfair.”
Let’s first remember that NONE of these legislative bills touch professional sports. This is NOT about the Olympics or college sports or any elite-level sports. At all elite levels that allow trans athletes, hormone regulations already exist and trans women’s testosterone levels are regulated when they compete in women’s sports.
At non-elite levels, it does not matter; we’re talking about children who just want to kick a ball around with their friends. Most athletes are not Olympians, National Team members, or even going to compete in regional-level meets. These are just kids playing sports with their friends.
④ “But even if testosterone levels are regulated, trans women go thru testosterone-driven puberty, so they are taller & bigger!”
First: Many trans girls take puberty (hormone) blockers and therefore have never experienced testosterone-driven puberty and this argument is null. But what about those who have?
Let’s think about a 6’3 cisgender woman who plays basketball. People will say, “Damn, she was made for basketball!” Now let’s say we there is a 6′ trans woman. People often immediately say that’s unfair.
The reality is these accusations are often transphobic, sexist & misogynist (trans women’s gender expression is often accused of being “too masculine” or “manly”), and, a lot of the time: racist. Many of the trans women who have been attacked are Black and brown trans women, which is no coincidence.
This is the repeated shaming and policing of Black and brown women’s bodies in sport. And this is not new. Think of Serena Williams and many other Black women who’s bodies have been repeatedly policed in sport.
⑤ “Trans women have unfair biological advantages.”
Don’t forget that biological differences exist everywhere in sports. No two athletes’ bodies look the same; no two cisgender women’s bodies look the same! And they shouldn’t have to.
The shortest guy on my swim team was 5’6. The tallest guy was 6’7. That means the shortest guy was more than a FOOT shorter than that tallest guy. Is that height a biological advantage? Of course it is! But is it unfair and meriting of disqualification? Of course not! It’s just a biological difference. (It’s also worth noting that guy who was 5’6 was one of the fastest swimmers we had, and captain his senior year.)
So, yes, trans women absolutely can exhibit biological diversity… Just like everyone else does.
⑥ “I’m not transphobic, I just care about fairness.”
In the Women’s Sports Foundation 2020 report, Chasing Equity, on barriers to sport for women, the inclusion of trans women is not mentioned once. Trans women do not threaten the fabric of women’s sports. Excluding and attacking trans women does.
That is, so many folks don’t care about sports or fairness until a trans woman wants to play. And then, suddenly, they are massive sports fans. If folks truly want to bring fairness to the forefront, they’d fight against the main barrier to access for sports: socioeconomic disparity, often intertwined with systemic oppression such as racism.
⑦ LASTLY, DO NOT FORGET THIS IS AN INTERSECTIONAL ISSUE.
When medical tests proved that Michael Phelps’ body produces half the levels of lactic acid that the typical athlete does, the Olympic Committee praised him for how lucky he was to have a “genetic advantage.” When Caster Semenya was invasively tested after being accused of an unfair advantage, she not only had her medals stripped from her, but was barred from further competition until she takes medication to lower her natural testosterone levels. It is no coincidence that Phelps is a cisgender, straight, white man and Caster Semenya is a queer Black woman. This is not about fairness. This is white supremacy and the patriarchy. When men are good at sports, they are praised for their bodies. When women are good at sports, especially if they are Black, they are called unfair and are punished. That is, these attacks on trans women reflect the continued policing of Black and brown women’s bodies. We see this with the massive amount of hatred that Serena Williams receives. With the newest attacks of Simone Biles. Black women’s bodies have been policed for decades and trans women are just the newest target. This must stop.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Share this article to help educate your friends.
- Learn how to be a great ally at pinkmantaray.com/allyship.
- Take direct action (calling/emailing representatives and governors) at pinkmantaray.com/transbills.
- Donate to trans-led organizations at pinkmantaray.com/charities.
- Follow and support trans athletes! Here are some recommendations:
SECOND POST: MORE RESPONSES TO PEOPLE’S ARGUMENTS–
① THESE BILLS ARE NOT ABOUT PROFESSIONAL SPORTS. THEY ATTACK CHILDREN.
People often reference professional athletes when discussing these bills, but professional sports are irrelevant here. State legislatures have NO jurisdiction in the NCAA, the Olympics, or any professional sports. So these bills are about children. And there are NO significant biological differences in children before puberty (around 13 years old) except for the presence or absence of a penis. And no one plays sports with their penis. Even when physiological differences begin to arise, they do not matter unless the athlete is competing in elite level sports – and, at elite level sports, there are already regulations in place to manage hormonal differences in trans athletes. Remember that most kids are NOT playing sports to be Olympians, or even to win. Most kids play sports to have fun and to belong somewhere. And trans kids deserve this, too.
② ON FALLON FOX
Many people spread sensationalized misinformation about Fallon Fox when talking about these bills. But Fallon Fox is NOT A CHILD! THESE BILLS ARE ABOUT CHILDREN! I only include this slide for fact checking. So here that is:
Fallon Fox is not a wrestler, she is an MMA fighter and MMA fighting is dangerous. It is violent. Everyone who participates risks getting injured and consents to this risk by participating. Incidents of facial injuries are COMMON in MMA fighting [Bledsoe et al., 2006] and many cis women inflict fractures on each other. Also, the person in the viral images of a bloodied face never even fought Fallon Fox; that was made up. Fallon Fox did fight Tamikka Brents but did NOT break her skull open. Fox fractured Brents’ orbital bone, which, again, is actually common in MMA fighting because MMA fighting is dangerous and violent. Again, many cis women have also broken others’ orbital bones. Calling out Fox specifically on it is transphobic.
③ TRANS WOMEN HAVE NOT “DOMINATED” WOMEN’S SPORT
Trans women have competed in women’s sports for decades and NO trans-girl-domination has occurred. In fact, to this day, not a single out trans woman has ever qualified or competed in the Olympics, despite the IOC allowing trans women to compete. That is, trans folks are vastly underrepresented in elit level sports. In 2016, 5,059 women competed in the Olympics. Approximately 1% of the population is transgender, so if trans women were accurately represented, 50 or so trans women should have competed in the Olympics. None did.
④ THESE BILLS THREATEN ALL GIRLS
People often forget that in order to exclude trans women, you have to know which ones are trans, which means you must test them. Most states are proposing accusation-based testing which means ANY girl can be accused of being transgender and then be examined*. So, at what point is a girl ”too good” to be accused of being trans? At what point is a girl “too masculine” or “too tall” or “too strong” to be accused of being trans? The attempt to exclude trans women is the legalization of the policing of girls’ bodies. And it will disproportionately affect girls of color, especially Black girls, who are already often seen as not feminine or girl enough due to white supremacy. That is, the inclusion of trans girls in girls’ sport does not threaten girls’ sport. Instead, the exclusion of trans girls leads to the destruction of girls’ sport through the enforcement of misogynistic & racist standards of girls’ bodies.
*Note: in some states, this examination includes genital exams – ANY girl accused would have her genitals examined. This is not about fairness. This is pedophilia.
⑤ TRANS PEOPLE DO NOT NEED OUR OWN DIVISION
Trans girls are girls. Trans boys are boys. Trans kids should be allowed to play with the gender that aligns with their identity. Creating a separate division is othering and excluding of people based on their gender identity which is, by definition, discriminatory. Trans kids are kids, too, and deserve to play and belong with other kids.
⑥ SO MANY PEOPLE DON’T CARE ABOUT WOMEN’S SPORTS UNTIL A TRANS GIRL WANTS TO PLAY
Most people (largely cis, straight men) don’t care at all about women’s sports. They don’t watch them, they don’t value them, and they don’t advocate for equal pay or opportunity in them… But as soon as a trans girl wants to compete with girls, these folks are suddenly massive sports and “fairness” advocates. But if they truly cared about fairness, they’d be fighting tooth and nail against the things that actually threaten fairness in sports: equal pay, equal access, racism, sexism, misogyny, etc. That is, if people truly cared about equity and justice in sports for girls, they’d focus on uplifting marginalized groups, not on attacking them.
Trans girls deserve to play. Science supports trans kids. Share the second set of slides here.