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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
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Participation in gender-affirming sports is a human right

Discriminatory anti-trans sports bill harms trans youth

On Transgender Day of Visibility, which occurred on March 31, the White House announced that it would expand trans rights by focusing on providing mental health resources for trans youth, supporting gender-affirming care and allowing U.S. citizens to indicate their gender as “x” as opposed to choosing male or female. 

These progressive legislative commitments come on the heels of a contentious anti-trans bill that recently advanced Pennsylvania House Education Committee on March 29. According to the Republican-proposed bill titled, “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” student-athletes would be required to play according to their “biological sex.”

 The bill states that “students of the male sex” are not permitted to join athletic teams designated for women or girls. It includes kindergarten through 12th grade school teams, college sports and any school-sponsored intramural and club teams. Students and schools would be allowed to sue if “they feel harmed by violations of that rule.” 

This anti-trans sports bill is an attack on transgender and gender nonconforming youth and prevents them from participating in gender-affirming sports.

 Similar to a sentiment shared by Rep. Napoleon Nelson, a Democrat serving Montgomery County, I believe that sports provide an opportunity for all young people to learn how to compete and push their body in a way that is constructive and empowering. 

The benefits of kids participating in sports includes “lowered risks of anxiety, depression and suicide attempts.” Therefore, depriving trans youth of gender-affirming sports experiences would further contribute to their vulnerability, which already encompasses discrimination, high rates of suicide within the community and an overall lack of supportive resources. 

Rep. Barbara Gleim, a Republicanserving Cumberland County, stated, “allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports reverses nearly 50 years of harder advances for women, and destroys fair competition and women’s athletic opportunities.” However, bigotry and science-based discrimination drives the unfounded belief that testosterone in biological males offers an athletic advantage over cisgender females. 

If we are limiting the purpose of sports to just the accolades that come with winning, then we are wholly deceiving ourselves. Sports provide an outlet of expression and identity that goes beyond gender. Anyone who considers themselves an athlete can agree that, at the end of the day, competing in a sport is all about having fun and challenging yourself.

 It shouldn’t matter if you’re competing against a cisgender woman or a transgender woman, everyone who shows up at the starting line is an athlete, a competitor, another human being who has also endured hours of training and mental preparation in order to participate in a sport that they love. 

In Britni de la Cretaz’s “Anti-Trans Sports Bills Are a ‘Solution’ to a Problem That Doesn’t Exist,” they discuss how the argument that boys and men will “pretend” to be a woman as a way to dominate girls’ sports “is a willful misunderstanding of trans identity and the sacrifices people make to medically transition and live as their authentic selves.” 

Trans individuals often experience something called “dysphoria,” which is an “intense, continuous distress resulting from an individual’s sense of the inappropriateness of their assigned sex at birth,” according to “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” (DSM-V). 

Allowing people to feel like themselves can help alleviate feelings of dysphoria. In other words, allowing trans youth to participate in gender-affirming sports can help them find acceptance — within themselves as well as within their communities — and affirm their right to live authentically. 

Chelsea Wolfe, a professional BMX freestyle rider who also serves as an ambassador for LGBTQIA+ sports organization, Athlete Ally, stated, “There are likely hundreds of trans athletes competing across the country, and their participation is not seen as an issue unless they win.” We recently saw this play out when Lia Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania swimmer and trans woman, won a title at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) women’s swimming and diving championship. 

In response to her win, protestors condemned Thomas’s inclusion in the women’s category. Annabelle Rutledge, the national director for Young Women for America stated that, “We’re not going to stand by and let women be displaced … We must fight for their rights.” However, it is in fact Rutledge who is displacing and stripping the rights of Lia Thomas, who, in every sense of the word, is a woman. 

Trans athletes have long competed at both the NCAA and Olympic levels without raising any objections, yet there are people, especially within the Republican party, who want to erase trans people from all sports by pushing for discriminatory policies that isolate and exclude trans youth from participating in gender-affirming sports.

 The “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” bill represents a clear violation of the basic human right for trans youth as well as trans athletes to be a part of an athletic community based on strength, resilience and courage; all of which is not dictated by gender, but by the shear willingness and determination to participate in a sport that allows an individual to completely immerse themselves in competition, not gender binaries.

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