On February 29, Megan Youngren made sports history. Not by breaking a world record, or by overcoming a particularly devastating injury. No, Youngren became the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the U.S. Olympic marathon trials.
As is almost always the case with athletes competing across gender lines, Youngren is a biological male who attempted to make the U. S. Olympics women’s team. And even though Youngren didn’t make the cut, no doubt he is just the first of many men who will try to seek Olympic glory by competing against women.
And that means there’s more than a good chance we’ll find ourselves in conversations about the fairness of biological men in women’s sports.
The latest in our “What Would You Say?” video series tackles this question. Each video offers clear, articulate, and useable answers to tough cultural issues like this one. Here’s just part of the latest video, with Joseph Backholm’s response to the question of men competing as women:
First, allowing biological males to compete with girls ignores real physical differences.
Men have, on average, 36% more muscle mass than women. Men tend to be taller, and their bones are thicker and denser. Conversely, women have lower lung volume and lower airflow capacity because they have smaller lungs and airway diameter.
The fastest men are faster than the fastest women. Likewise, the strongest men are stronger than the strongest women, even if they are in the same weight class. These biological realities are the reason men’s and women’s sports have long been separated.
Which leads us to the second point.
Allowing boys to compete with girls denies girls the chance to compete on a level playing field.
In just the last two years, two biological males have won 15 girls track and field championships in Connecticut. These same two male athletes have participating in 40 qualifying events, filling slots that otherwise would have been filled by girls who are biologically female. Over their two remaining years of high school career, they are likely to erase many more females from the high school record books as well.
This is happening in college also.
A student at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire previously competed on the men’s track & field team, but now competes as a female. In 2018, as a man, he placed 8th in a field of 9 in the 400-meter hurdles during a regular season meet. The following year, competing as a woman, he won the national championship in the 400-meter hurdles by 1.5 seconds.
We all want to be understanding, but in this case, being understanding also requires us to understand what it means for women and girls who are forced to compete against biological males for political reasons.
Which leads to the third point.
Allowing boys to participate in girls’ sports threatens the existence of girl’s sports.
In the United States, sports used to be almost exclusively for boys. A federal law called Title IX was created in 1972 to make sure athletic opportunities existed for women in the same way they existed for men.
This has also created athletic scholarship opportunities. 45 years ago, almost no female athletic scholarships existed. As of 2012, almost 200,000 women played college athletics, many on scholarship.
All of these opportunities for women and girls were created because we recognized that the physical difference between men and women shouldn’t prevent women from having the opportunity to compete. Today, we are being asked to pretend that the only difference between men and women is the way we feel.
In the past, it was considered misogyny when men took opportunities from women… Today, it’s called equality.
That was just a brief sample of the latest What Would You Say video. Come to WhatWouldYouSay.org, or catch it on YouTube. And be sure to subscribe so you will receive an update every time a new video is released.
Nick McCarvel | ESPN | February 29, 2020
John Stonestreet | The Point | July 25, 2019
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