Transgender athletes deserving of equal rights

Sophia Comas, Sports Editor

In light of the new transgender guideline policy passed for the entirety of USD 383, parents and coaches alike took the opportunity provided by the Board of Education to publicly address what they consider to be the largest concern within the new legislation — athletics.

The unamended policy says: “Transgender and gender nonconforming students shall be permitted to participate in interscholastic athletics in a manner consistent with their gender identity and in compliance with the rules and regulations of the Kansas State High School Activities Association.”

That’s it. While the Board is still discussing how to better specify the language within the policy that directly relates to athletics, this is what’s been decided for the district. It applies to all sports but for some, the issue lies within their belief that it damages “the integrity of girls sports,” as one mother put it, and that it places girls at an unfair advantage when transgender females are allowed to compete in the same area as they do. With higher testosterone levels, transgender females can physically endure more than someone who was born female. At least, that’s the argument.

As someone who once competed in girls sports and continues to appreciate competitive athletics every day, all I can say is what a load of garbage. To think that a person’s true athletic capability is determined by whether or not they win over someone more “genetically natural” is absurd. As a female athlete, I’m offended.

While I no longer compete in the sports that I used to, not once did I ever question if my athletic value was less than that of a boy’s in the same sport. The only reason I didn’t is because I knew what I was capable of and I determined that if someone was better than me it was because they truly deserved it. In other words, I had sportsmanship. I didn’t complain and whine about how it wasn’t fair that somebody beat me. I took the opportunity to analyze what I may have done wrong and how I could improve the next time I competed.  

As Board President Curt Herman pointed out in his closing statement, there is not a single record of any transgender student from our district who holds a state title in any sport, male or female. Those titles are still available for anyone to still earn. Clearly, transgender athletes haven’t taken anything from those who aren’t transgender and haven’t put any girls at a disadvantage as to whether or not they can place in an event or win a game.

Secondly, the battle against hormones isn’t even about transgender people. Caster Semenya, a naturally born female Olympic track athlete, just lost her legal battle against the International Association of Athletics Federation regarding her levels of testosterone, which are naturally higher than the average for women. The IAAF is enforcing that she medically reduce her hormone levels in order to be eligible to compete in the women’s division in the 800 meter and 1500 meter races. While her response to the situation carries more calmness than most could muster, it’s understandable why the rest of the world is outraged.

“I know that the IAAF’s regulations have always targeted me specifically,” Semenya said in an interview with ESPN. “For a decade the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger.”

People can clearly see she’s being targeted comparing other cases of genetic abnormalities to her own. Swimmer Michael; Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, also has a genetic quality that makes him the perfect athlete.

Unlike most swimmers, Phelps produces only half of the lactic acid he’s supposed to. The lack of lactic acid — a chemical produced by the body after physical exertion that causes fatigue and slows muscle contraction — allows him to recover in just a few minutes rather than taking the necessary break time needed for most athletes.

How can anyone argue that hormone advantages are the fault of transgender people when non-transgender athletes are already being oppressed because of it? Why is it that one Olympian must suppress her natural bodily functions while another’s genetic differences are celebrated? Why is a quality like Semenya’s weaponized against her and the transgender community?

Regardless of the differences in these questions, they can only provide one answer —  that people care more about winning than they do about those who compete. I was always taught that competition wasn’t just about winning but about teamwork and feeling pride in what you can persevere to accomplish. But when all aspects of competing become discriminatory to specific groups of people, what is there to be proud of?