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  • Jamie Harrell, MBA

Transgender Athletes Fail to Dominate Sports

There is no epidemic of transgender women dominating women's sports. There is no epidemic of transgender girls dominating high school sports. Transgender people have been competing at the elite NCAA and Olympic level for years, yet without a google search no one I know can name 5 champions - transgender women - who have reached the pinnacle of success in their sport.

You might know the name Renee Richards, one of the first transgender athletes in women's tennis. She holds zero career titles in the Women's Tennis Association. She was beaten in the first round of the 1977 US Open. Her highest rank was number 20, in spite of her 6' 1" height "advantage".

Another name you might know, or perhaps not, is Margo Dydek (pictured). She remains posthumously the tallest professional female basketball player in the world, standing at 7'2" and 283 lbs. For reference, the average size of an NFL linebacker recruit in 2020 was 6'1" and 216 lbs. Margo was a cisgender woman, not a transgender woman.

I was never a particularly good athlete but I enjoyed racquetball, wrestling and basketball as a child. And what I do know is that athleticism is more about drive, determination, discipline, and practice. Certainly there are different socioeconomic factors and yes even physical factors that also create advantage and disa

dvantage among cisgender youth. People come in all different sizes. Some people can afford professional training, others can’t. We accept those factors in sports because they aren't the sole determining factor of success. And we separate individuals by weight in sports like wrestling. I wrestled 135 lbs. class in high school, and frequently lost in practice to our 110 lb. class wrestler. He was a significantly better wrestler than me. Being bigger didn't make me a good wrestler. Being relatively tall didn’t make me a good basketball player. I sat bench. I was pretty good at that.

There is a large body of evidence that shows that allowing kids to compete in sports improves their lives, and th

at competition including transgender people is fair. The NCAA has allowed it for 10 years. Across every sport. At every NCAA participating college and university across the nation. And yet, transgender women in all that time - a full decade - have failed. They have absolutely failed to RUIN women's sports. How long does that test need to run before we accept the obvious? That allowing transgender athletes to compete causes NO harm, and creates opportunity for some already marginalized students?

But history tell

s me, all the data in the world, all the scientific evidence in the world, that transgender athletes pose zero harm to cisgender athletes won't sway your opinion.

Instead, I ask you, what is the *real* purpose of sports in our schools, and isn't denying transgender students the opportunity to play a *disservice* to an already marginalized group? Are school sports about winning and creating elite athletes, or are they about learning the value of teamwork, discipline, and finding something you're passionate about? Some students, a significant minority, are certainly going to become elite athlet

es. Losing one match or one title, yes a possibility, is not likely to change the course of their education or athletic career, whether that loss was to a cisgender or transgender student. Elite athletes WILL get scholarships, with or without a loss. Sports is only a zero sum game if you measure it in terms of Gold Medals. That is not what school sports is about.

When I look at inspirational quotes from top athlet

es, they all follow a similar theme. That sports is about building a better self. It’s more about YOU than your opponent:

  • Arthur Ashe: “You are never really playing an opponent. You are playing yourself, your own highest standards, and when you reach your limits that is real joy.”

  • Evander Holyfield: “It is not the size of a man but the size of his heart that matters.”

  • Bobby Knight: “Your biggest opponent isn’t the other guy. It’s human nature.”

  • Mike Singletary: “Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.”

Every kid deserves an opportunity to play. Sports in elementary and middle school doesn't even need to be separated by gender. My 2nd grade soccer team had both boys and girls in the 1980's. Sports in college is already bound by NCAA guidelines, which has regulated fair competition including transgender athletes for over 10 years. And still, there is no epidemic of transgender women dominating NCAA women's sports.

And I promise you, every transgender woman competing is trying just as hard to win as their cisgender opponents. And there is no epidemic of transgender students dominating high school sports either. Forcing transgender kids to compete on the wrong team is not the same as giving them a *real* opportunity to play. Instead it creates a situation that will force many of them to opt out - a quiet discrimination that doesn't *need* to exist. There is no problem to solve here; only one to create if states move forward with banning transgender children from school athletics.

I'll leave you with a final quote, this one from Nelson Mandela, and I'll ask you to think about the good you can do by letting transgender students compete fairly:

"Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination."

Please don't *create* new discrimination in sports. Governments should be breaking down discriminatory barriers, not creating them. All students deserve the opportunity to play fairly, including transgender students.

### Edit 3/25/2021 ###

This post seems to have really resonated with a lot of people. Thank you for sharing. Be kind to others and if you need a little chill in your life, please follow my music page while you're here:

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