Many people have come to look upon the policy disputes attendant to the transgender movement as a “clash of rights.” And yet, nobody has a right to be a competitive athlete at all. In fact, competitive sport is not supposed to be inclusive. It is, by definition, exclusive.
In seeking to compete, there is no opportunity that ordinary citizens enjoy that transgender-identifying citizens don’t also enjoy.
Really, the clash between women’s-rights activists and trans activists is a clash of (sex-based) rights with special (identity-based) privileges. No one is entitled to special privileges. And that is especially true when such privileges undermine the rights of others. Besides, as has been demonstrated by trans-identifying athletes themselves — they have no issues competing against their biological sex, if and when it suits them.
Take the recent case of the British cyclist, Emily Bridges. In 2019, when Bridges went by his given name, Zach, he was the national junior cycling champion over 25 miles and gained a spot on the British Cycling senior academy. Now, after taking hormone treatment for long enough to satisfy the UCI testosterone requirements for trans athletes, Bridges would like to compete in women’s competitions. However, under serious pressure from female athletes, the UCI temporarily barred Bridges from competing at the National Omnium Championships, citing the athlete’s current registration as a male cyclist.
“No one should have to choose between being who they are, and participating in the sport they love,” Bridges said in a recent statement. But who disagrees?
Certainly, no one booted this trans-identifying male out of the men’s team. Indeed, as recently as two months ago, Bridges was enjoying victories as a trans-identifying male in men’s competitions. Despite undergoing hormone treatment and identifying as a woman, Bridges picked up gold and bronze medals at the men’s points race at the British Universities’ championships in February.
As Bridges demonstrated, there is no practical impediment to trans-identifying males continuing to compete against other males. Rather, the issue is one of entitlement, predicated on the reasoning that “trans women are women” and, therefore, have a “right” to compete as women. But trans women are not women, if that word is to mean anything at all. And hence, they do not have this right.
Moreover, it’s curious how this principle is inconsistently applied. For instance, trans ideologues also insist that “trans men are men” and have a right to compete against men. And yet, even though they face zero backlash (since females do not threaten the safety and fairness of males), it is telling how seldom they choose to exercise this right.
At the NCAA swimming championships, while the male swimmer Lia Thomas dominated the female sex — Iszac Henig, a trans-identifying female, was content to compete against other females. Other examples of trans-identifying females who continued competing against their biological sex include: Duke’s rower, Liam Miranda; Fordham’s basketball star, Bryson Cavanaugh; George Washington’s basketball player, Kye Allums; in swimming, the University of Michigan’s G Ryan; and in cross country, Georgia State’s Jeffrey Rubel.
This makes perfect sense. If you’re female, it’s easier to win against females than males. If you’re male, it’s also easier to win against females. Yet, for the trans movement, allowing males to dominate women is about more than winning any given game. It’s also about winning the culture, or rather taking it by intimidation. If we are willing to go along with the outrageous demand that, even in sports, “trans women are women,” then where will we draw the line?
If only sports organizations cared enough to mount a basic defense of female athletes. It shouldn’t be difficult for them. As Helen Joyce puts it, “sports are about bodies, not identities.” Even if you subscribe to the belief that people have gender identities distinct from their biological sex, there is no getting around the fact that biologically and bodily, trans women are men.
The idea that a male body can be impaired enough to be equivalent to a female body is deeply sexist. Writing in the New York Post, parents of female athletes at Ivy League schools made this point very effectively. “A woman is not a disadvantaged man,” they wrote. “There is no balance of fairness to assess. Women deserve fairness without caveat, and they should not be asked to shoulder the mental health of others at their own expense.” Evidently, other sports organizations would rather avoid the stink the NCAA created in allowing Lia Thomas to compete. In the case of Emily Bridges, female riders were reportedly planning a boycott of the race, which presumably explains why the UCI chose to stall.
But what will the UCI do next? Mess around further with testosterone levels? Consult a “panel of experts” as USA Swimming promised to do? British Cycling issued its own statement, addressing the controversy and “calling for a coalition to share, learn and understand more about how we can achieve fairness in a way that maintains the dignity and respect of all athletes.”
They are looking for a compromise that doesn’t exist, without considering whether it is even necessary. Some commentators even suggest a separate transgender league, forgetting that this is a repackaging of something we already have and is already open to trans-identifying athletes of either sex: co-ed sports.
We do not need to upend sports to humor ideologues. As it currently stands, sports are already open and welcoming to all athletes regardless of their identity, and with respect to their sex. This is how it should remain.