The arena of sports is one of several areas where the radical transgender political agenda and the rights of women are in direct conflict. As a woman with four daughters, and years of advocacy on behalf of women and children, I feel compelled to speak out on this issue. After all, I have witnessed the rise of women’s sports in my own lifetime. Title IX opened the door to women's sports programs in 1972 and required gender equality by the 1978-79 school year. I was in 4th grade that year. I have never been an athlete, but because I lived through those times, I understand and appreciate the hard-fought ground that was gained by female athletes in the 70s and 80s.
Fast forward to just a few short years ago. The London Olympics in 2012 were the very first Olympic games in which every participating country had female athletes and the first Olympics in which female athletes competed in every available Olympic sport. Let that sink in for a moment. 2012. That's more than a century after the first modern Olympics in 1896. Women have had to fight hard to have some semblance of respect and equality in athletics. Yet now in 2020, that ground is being chipped away worldwide.
This is where the difference in sex and gender must be recognized as a reality that cannot be denied or assuaged. Gender expression is a social construct, not a scientific or biological one. The construct of gender is the prescribed behavior within any given culture, be it dress, mannerisms, or behaviors that are gender specific. Those change over time and differ across geographic, religious, and cultural boundaries. Sex, on the other hand, is the biological genetic material that defines and separates the physiology of male and female beyond simply genitalia. It is scientific and ultimately unchangeable.
Yet, male athletes are now competing against female athletes in women’s sports by simply declaring themselves to be female. Whether it is Fallon Fox shattering eye sockets in the MMA, Laurel Hubbard shattering national women’s weightlifting records in New Zealand, male runners winning girls’ high school track titles in Connecticut, or male athletes being named as female athlete of the week, the stories abound. With everything in me, I do not understand why this is allowed. When a person is born male, he is male at a genetic level. No amount of surgery or artificial hormone usage can change that. Men and women have different bone density and muscle mass, different lung capacities, different heart sizes and different amounts of blood circulating through their bodies. During organ transplant surgery of hearts and livers, there is a greater risk of rejection with "cross gender" transplantation. Our bodies naturally recognize the fundamental differences between male and female. Those things are not significantly altered during hormone therapy or sex reassignment. Most of those core differences are not altered at all. Mediocre male athletes can suddenly be superstars when they switch to women’s teams.
To put this in perspective, one only has to look at the field of women’s track. Anyone who was alive in the 1980s remembers Florence Griffith Joyner’s truly remarkable 1988 Olympic appearance. I can vividly remember cheering in front of my t.v. as she broke the Olympic record in the 100-meter dash as well as the Olympic and world records in the 200-meter dash. It was exhilarating to watch the fastest woman on earth. Even though her record time was remarkable for women’s track, you have to go all the way back to 1921 to find a comparable men’s record in the 100 meter. In the last thirty-two years no woman has even come close to Joyner’s record without doping. In contrast, literally thousands of men, and even high school boys have run faster than Flo Jo did in 1988. In fact, the current 3499th place men’s record holder for the 200-meter dash at 20.39 seconds is almost a full second faster than Joyner’s 21.34 second 200-meter women’s world record.
So, how are women’s sports records supposed to be taken seriously if they are set by male athletes? How are girls supposed to fairly compete for titles and scholarships in high school against male students? How are female athletes supposed to compete in contact sports against biologically male athletes without risking serious physical injury? There is a reason why sex specific sports teams were created in the first place. We can and should show kindness and compassion for individuals who are struggling with their own identity. But if we can't objectively define the difference between male and female then there is no point to sex specific sports or Title IX. I don’t claim to have all the answers and the further we go down this road, the more complicated and convoluted the circumstances become. I am also fully aware of the angry backlash that comes from speaking out on these types of issues. But as a woman, as a mother, and as a girl who grew up during the sexual revolution, I know I’m not alone in my concerns on this issue. An entire new generation of young girls are waiting and watching. Are we going to stand up for them and protect their opportunities to fairly compete and to earn scholarships, or will we shrink back and allow our collective voices to be silenced by an outrage mob?
Because of this, I fully support HB2706, sponsored by Representative Nancy Barto. It aims to protect girls’ interscholastic sports by clearly defining eligibility for sex specific sports teams to be based on biological sex. (Note: this has no effect on opportunities for girls to tryout for boys' teams when there is no comparable girls' team. That will remain as is)
**Update 3/4/20 Last night, after six hours of debate, HB2706 passed through the House of Representatives on a 31-29 strict party line vote. It will now be transmitted to the Senate.
by Debi Vandenboom
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