A recent article from LEAPS came across my desk that was literally jaw dropping to read. Under the tagline “Making Sense of Science,” Susan Kreimer profiles “trans” people and the debate around athletic competition. (Keep the tagline in mind if you read Kreimer’s piece as it does demand we suspend reality, which, of course, makes no sense in actually understanding science.)
Per usual, she opens with a story to appeal to our compassion and sympathies, by profiling Ashley O’Connor. Ashley is a man, who now pretends to be a woman. During high school he played on the girls’ badminton team. Ashley lamented that there was no boy’s team he could join and a girl on the team encouraged Ashley to join their team. Ashley said it provided community, was a great way to work out, and helped him to “just be normal.”
Kreimer then pivots to the 18 politically conservative states that prohibit boys playing on girls’ sports teams and vice versa. She quotes Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, “As the tidal wave of gender activism consumes sports from the Olympics on down, a backlash is being felt as parents are furious about the disregard for their daughters who have worked very hard to achieve success as athletes.” She attempts some semblance of objectivity for the next several paragraphs of the article, giving relatively balanced space to showcase the dissenting opinions.
Liz Joy, the past President of the American College of Sports Medicine acknowledges that one can sympathize with both sides of the argument, ultimately concluding that it’s impossible to create policies that will make everyone happy Former pediatric endocrinologist from Yale, Myron Genel, points out that height is a difficult criterion as you have some sports where tall women compete against shorter women. Genel, who served as an advisor to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) believes that if cross-sex hormones are taken early in puberty, these people would have “very little unique advantage”.
Katherine Drabiak, Associate Professor of Public Health, Law, and Medical Ethics at the University of South Florida notes that there has been very little attention of girls or women presenting as male wanting to compete against men. Yes, curious isn’t it since we know that men have an advantage over women because of the different composition of lean body mass which affects things like strength.
No journalistic article would be complete without some strong words from the LGBTQ plus ideologues on policy matters. Jonah Dechants, research scientist with The Trevor Project, says that they “urge coaches, educators and school administrators to seek LGBTQ-cultural competency training, implement zero tolerance policies for anti-trans bullying, and create safe, affirming environments for all transgender students on and off the field.”
One missing element in Kreimer’s article is the matter of men and women sharing spaces together. Anyone who has been involved on a sports team, or had children who played on teams, knows there are things like traveling together, showering together, and sharing sleeping rooms while on the road together. There is more to this than just men playing on women’s volleyball teams.
But while both sides of the argument were given ample space within the article, you can almost always discern a writer’s personal bias by identifying which side gets both the opening and closing statements, and this article is no exception. The bias is clear. The article closes by appealing to the mental health benefits of allowing trans-identified players to participate on the athletic teams of the opposite sex. She includes several reminders of how high the suicide rates are among those with gender dysphoria and essentially draws the conclusion that men’s inclusion on women’s sports teams might actually be a matter of life and death. Who could say no when death is on the line, right? Curiously absent from the narrative was any mention whatsoever about the mental effects women might experience when their hard-earned athletic opportunities and awards are given to men.
It will be interesting to see how this debate plays out as there are clear divisions based on biological realities – men can never be women and women can never be men. That’s how we make sense out of science.
- Jennifer Lahl, MA, BSN, RN, is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.