Unafraid of backlash, retaliation, or cancellation, three accomplished male athletes are denouncing the discriminatory policies that allow males who identify as “transgender women” to compete in women’s sports. They say that biological differences in the sexes pose far too many competitive advantages for men and those policies blur the lines between male- and female-only spaces, breaching the privacy of all athletes.
“I know people are probably scared of backlash and stuff like that, and they’re right to be,” said Nick Lee, a recent graduate of Pennsylvania State University’s Nittany Lion Division I wrestling team. “People have to be brave and continue to talk about this—it’s something that we need to focus on now because it’s just going to keep getting worse.”
In speaking out, Lee and other male athletes told Independent Women’s Forum that they’re also concerned about biological women who identify as transgender men sharing men’s facilities such as locker rooms, where they often strip naked and shower in close quarters.
“My body is private to me,” said Lee. “It would make me feel very uncomfortable to have a woman in my locker room.”
Chris Bray, a former pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, and Michael Cleugh, a former Long Beach State University All-American volleyball player and NCAA champion, share similar concerns.
“There’s a comradery, male or female, that you’re going to have in a locker room, so you’re not going to want somebody from the opposite sex in there. That’s going to hamper the way you would normally comport yourself in the locker room,” said Cleugh. “It’d be an uncomfortable, unnatural situation.”
Bray expressed not only how locker rooms are an integral part of the team bonding experience but also shared concerns about women’s safety if exposed to male locker room culture.
“First off, there are 25 guys on a Major League Baseball team, with 25 massive egos. That’s a lot of testosterone floating around that locker room, especially after a game. If you had a good performance, you’re hyped up,” he said. “It’s an open room—even the showers—they’re not stalls. It’s a giant room with 35 shower heads. I couldn’t even imagine putting a female in that situation, or on the flip side of that, putting a guy in a locker room with 25 other women.”
After champion swimmer Riley Gaines said that “trans-identified” competitor Lia Thomas exposed female swimmers to his male genitalia in the women’s locker room, Gaines asserted she felt “gaslit into silence.”
Drawing comparisons about the experience to sexual assault or voyeurism, Gaines urged the NCAA to create separate spaces for athletes who don’t identify as their biological sex, delivering a petition to the organization with almost 10,000 signatures from people protesting the inclusion of biological males in women’s sports. Thus far, the NCAA has not responded to the content of the petition.
Especially for combat sports like wrestling, Lee said that sex-segregated areas bring masculine personalities together, breeding toughness and improving athletic performance. This is also reflected in what evolutionary psychologists call the male warrior hypothesis, which argues that for men, in-group conflict creates opportunities to build stronger ties with one another. That’s not the case for women. Male athletes engage in fierce competition, but this drives them closer to one another, which is why men are often more physical than women.
Men treating sports like war “is barbaric,” Bray said, “but that builds so much unity within a team because you go to battle with one another against your enemy.”
It’s funny—[have] you ever seen two guys fight one another? Afterwards, they become bros. They’re in the fight. They want to rip each other’s heads off, but afterwards, they have a mutual respect for one another.
In volleyball, most teams are sex-segregated to account for biological differences in muscle and bone structure, inherent strength, etc. That said, Cleugh noted how beach volleyball has “mixed doubles” teams where men and women play together but the male partner is typically expected to cover most of the court, field more receptions, and dominate in hitting the ball.
Cleugh has encouraged his two daughters to play volleyball, even coaching them during middle school. He recalled that the moment they were turned off from the sport was when he had accidentally hit them while practicing.
“I wasn’t trying to hurt them. We were just trying to run a drill. But they got caught in the face or in the throat with a ball, and it hurt, and they were like, ‘This is not for me,’” Cleugh said, recounting his own days competing and getting hit with volleyballs at 70 miles per hour.
Using his own coaching experience, Bray acknowledged how in baseball, pitching speeds between the sexes are similar until a boy reaches 15 years old. According to Bray, when he was playing, the average Major League fastball was only about 89 miles an hour, but today, he observes 15-year-old boys throwing in the 80-mile-an-hour range.
“Some of these guys in the Major Leagues nowadays have exit velocities well over 100 to 108 miles an hour, and some more. You get hit with that, it’s hurting,” Bray said, adding:
Let’s say I’m a hitter and she’s a pitcher, and I smoke a line drive back at her and bust her face all up. I’m going to totally feel terrible, like, “Oh my God, she shouldn’t be out here in the first place. Why did I hit that ball?” All these questions are going to come back into my mind as to what I could have done to avoid hurting this person. If it’s another guy, you just look at him as an equal, as far as competitive nature, and like, “Hey, all right, he’s a man out here. He knows what he’s getting into. If I hit him, so be it.”
Though the total number of male athletes competing in women’s sports is currently small, new Gallup survey results say one-fifth of Generation Z identifies as LGBTQ+. Between the Biden administration threatening to upend Title IX by mandating that men who identify as women must be accommodated in women’s public school and collegiate sports and Gen Z embracing “gender-fluidity,” one could reasonably expect a greater volume of males playing female sports in the future.
Biological differences between sexes may not be fully pronounced until puberty. But there are innumerous differences beginning in utero that contribute to a male body advantage. On average, male aerobic capacity is stronger due to larger hearts and lungs and, as they grow, males develop approximately 36% greater muscle mass than females, allowing for greater speed and force.
“There are actually weight classes [in wrestling], and the differences aren’t that big,” said Lee. “When you get down to it, a few pounds here and there can make a huge difference, even just between men.”
Typically, higher levels of testosterone in men increase the likelihood for risk-taking and aggressive behaviors. In some instances, untrained men are stronger than athletically-trained women. Inconvenient realities like these are what lead athletes like Lee to consider competing against a transgender-identifying athlete a “lose-lose situation.”
“I think it’s a lose-lose situation for me, right? I can go out there and dominate the match physically. Where is the satisfaction in that, knowing I have such a physical advantage on this person?” said Lee. “That’s not to say that women wrestlers aren’t good. Some of the most skilled wrestlers on the planet are women, but there’s reality to acknowledge in the role that strength and physical traits play.”