How transgender athletes are forcing sports and government authorities to make difficult decisions

The inclusive nature of sports makes it a natural arena in societies evolving civil rights issues

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 March, 2017, 2:54pm
UPDATED : Monday, 06 March, 2017, 11:37am

There is no way to say this other than the fact that it’s confusing, complicated and oh so polarising. If there are simple answers, I don’t have them when it comes to transgender athletes and issues in sports.

Mack Beggs is the newly crowned Texas state girls 110 pound wrestling champion. That is a fact. What’s also a fact is that Beggs is not a girl, at least not anymore.

The 17-year-old Beggs began transitioning from female to male in 2015 and is taking testosterone injections to make the transition complete.

He wants to compete against boys, but because his birth certificate says he was born a female, Texas authorities won’t allow it.

“I would rather compete than not compete at all,” he said.

And so he did against girls where he has a record of 55 and 0. Needless to say, some parents are not happy.

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“She is standing there holding her head high,” said an angry mother of one of Beggs vanquished foes. “She’s not winning, it’s cheating.”

And while Beggs is technically not cheating because he is simply following the law passed by the state’s educational superintendents, there is little doubt that Beggs has an unfair advantage. Little doubt.

“It’s an impossible choice,” said Hudson Taylor, executive director of the advocacy organisation Athlete Ally. “There is no other opportunity for him. When a school lacks a trans-inclusive policy, everyone loses.”

Again, in such a complex issue like this one it is extremely difficult to know who is right and who is wrong.

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A part of you has to empathise with the girls who have lost to Beggs, while another part can’t help but be impressed by his courage.

He knew he was going to be booed by some, and he was, but he remains undaunted. The real issues here lie with the Texas policy makers.

You can construct all the restrictive laws you want but, sorry Texas, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle.

Young boys or girls who wish to change their sexual orientation are not going to hesitate or change their mind now because they can’t compete against the gender of their choice.

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This is 2017 and there is a new generation that finds transgender people normal and the generation that comes after them will be even more tolerant and politically correct. This type of social evolution will keep rolling regardless of the law.

Beggs situation is far from the only transgender issue in sports. Last week, the NBA held their annual All-Star game and festivities, which is always an economic boon for the hosting city, in New Orleans after moving it from Charlotte, North Carolina.

The new House Bill 2 passed by North Carolina legislators limits anti-discrimination protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the state and also makes it illegal for transgender people to use the public restroom of their choice.

According to the state, the sexual orientation on your birth certificate is the determining factor for restroom use.

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But the NBA was not having it stating that their league charter includes, “not only diversity, inclusion, fairness and respect for others but also the willingness to listen and to consider opposing points of view.”

Whatever you may think of the NBA’s diversity and political correctness, it is consistent with who they are and it will not be changing anytime soon.

While the NBA took their showcase out of North Carolina, the PGA did not. In announcing their decision to keep the 2017 PGA Championship in a Charlotte area golf club, the PGA of America said that it is also opposed to House Bill 2 and that it is also an inclusive sporting organisation.

According to the PGA though, the upcoming event will be held at a private, not government venue, which presumably allows transgender people to use the rest room of their choice. I say presumably because private country clubs are rarely in the vanguard for social change and the PGA membership itself is renowned for its conservative leanings.

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However, the hammer blow of political correctness can be counterproductive as well.

It is entirely within the PGA’s right to keep their tournament in North Carolina just as the NBA is within its rights to take it out. As private corporations they will have to deal with fallout.

As far as Beggs is concerned, he will be able to compete with men when he gets to university next year as the NCAA allows transgender athletes to compete in their preferred orientation.

Transgender issues in sport will also remain largely polarising, confusing and complicated. The only thing that is certain is that they are not going away.