Trans athletes shouldn't face discrimination

By
Eli Pearl
on
May 24, 2021
Category:
Social Policy

In recent years, there has been an overly politicized debate surrounding transgender women athletes. Over 30 states have passed laws banning transgender women from competing in sports, and in some places like Minnesota, being a transgender woman and playing a sport in a female league is a misdemeanor. From a sports standpoint, these measures are frankly ridiculous.

“Trans Women Athletes Will Overrun Women’s Sports”

The first frequent talking point against trans women athletes is that if transgender women are allowed to compete in women’s sports, then many cis men would choose to transition or identify as women just to dominate women’s sports, which would lead to women’s sports being full of opportunists who don’t actually identify as women. There is zero empirical evidence for this happening. Transgender women athletes aren’t very common, according to Joanna Harper, a trans researcher and athlete who studies transgender women in sports. Harper estimates that of the 200k women that play college sports, only about 50 are transgender. This demonstrates that there are exceedingly few transgender women athletes; there is no empirical basis for this concern that transgender women will “overrun” women’s sports. The idea that people assigned male at birth (AMAB) will identify as a woman for the sole reason of competing in women’s sports has no basis in fact and is blatantly transphobic. 

Logic also defeats this argument. Any gender-reassignment surgery is going to be thousands of dollars and will take the athlete a very long time to recover from. For many transgender individuals, gender reassignment surgery is necessary for their survival and mental well-being. Wanting to dominate in women’s sports is not a logical reason to get such surgery.

Next, there’s no financial incentive for AMAB to transition just to dominate women’s sports. It is well known that women’s sports are ridiculously underfunded and underprivileged and that female athletes are not fairly compensated for their labor, especially when compared to their male counterparts. In leagues like the WNBA, it is common for players to play on multiple teams in multiple leagues to supplement their income. For the most part, the salaries of female athletes do not come close to the millions of dollars that male athletes in premier leagues receive each year.  

The bottom line: Women’s sports are massively underfunded, and female athletes do not earn wages close to what male athletes earn. The idea that cis men will become transgender solely to dominate in female sports is both empirically and logically nonsensical. 

“Trans Women Athletes Will Have an Unfair Advantage in Women’s Sports”

The anatomical arguments also fail. Post-transition, transgender women do not have the same muscle mass that they had pre-transition. And frankly, it doesn’t matter if transgender women have more muscle mass than cis women. Advantages are inevitable in sports. It would be ridiculous to attempt to ban someone like Shaquille O’Neal from the NBA because it was unfair to other players that he was more physically imposing and stronger than them. The same people that advocate for the barring of transgender women athletes from competing in competitions that they should participate in would laugh at the suggestion that Tyreek “Cheetah” Hill should be banned from the NFL because he’s faster than everyone else. Banning the best athletes in a sport is stupid, and if a transgender woman athlete is the best at her sport, then good for her. She shouldn’t be banned because she excels. 

There is a questionable history of banning supposed “unfair advantages'' in sports — a history that sounds ridiculous today. Back in 1967, the NCAA banned the slam dunk due to “injury concerns'' and the fact that the dunk “wasn’t a skilled shot.” However, the mass consensus among sports media of the time was that the dunk ban was due to a 7’2 UCLA freshman by the name of Lew Alcindor who was dunking left and right, and the belief that his dominance was “unfair.” While most college basketball fans know who Lew Alcindor is, the more casual fan will be familiar with Alcindor and his accomplishments under another name. During the summer of 1968, Lew Alcindor converted to Islam and took the name Kareem Abdul-Jabaar. Abdul-Jabaar’s dominance was punished at the collegiate level, which proved to be nothing but an embarrassment for the NCAA. Abdul-Jabaar went on to win three national titles at UCLA and was named Player of the Year in these three national championship runs. The NCAA’s attempt to limit the dominance of Abdul-Jabaar simply robbed fans and players alike of one of sports’ most exciting plays for nearly a decade (the ban lasted until the 1976-77 season).

The point of this anecdote is to show how stupid banning unfair advantages that aren’t actually unfair is. There are actual unfair advantages that should result in a ban, like the use of PEDs. But the existence of transgender women in sports is not an unfair advantage, and banning them for their assigned gender at birth is ridiculous and unfounded. One should not be persecuted because they may be physically stronger than their peers or because they are better at a sport than their peers. Excellence and participation in sports should not be discouraged. It should be applauded.

Conclusion

The arguments against transgender women athletes are not based on fact or logic. There is no basis for persecuting transgender women by creating laws that hurt trans women athletes, since the “problems” that these laws outline do not actually exist. Trans women athletes should be allowed to compete. Athletic excellence should be encouraged, not persecuted. If you want the best for sports, then you should support all athletes, including transgender women athletes. They deserve to live out their athletic dreams just like every other athlete, and the gender that they were assigned at birth should not impact that.

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Eli Pearl

Hi, I’m Eli Pearl, and I’m a sophmore in high school from California. I enjoy writing and speaking about politics, writing about sports, and Improv. I consider myself a Social Democrat who is currently researching Modern Monetary Theory and Post Keynesian Economics.