Trans athletes succeed despite restrictive policies

On Feb. 25, a new champion of Texas girls’ high school wrestling stood on top of the highest podium. His name is Mack Beggs.

Beggs is a 17-year-old transgender boy and a junior at Euless Trinity high school in Cypress, Texas. Much criticism has clouded Beggs’ championship win, as many believe the testosterone shots he has been taking for his transition gave him an unfair advantage over girls in the competition.

The Beggs’ family has made it clear he would much rather be wrestling boys, but state athletic rules state that high schoolers can only compete with the sex assigned on their birth certificate.

Beggs dominated his competition, beating Chelsea Sanchez in the girls’ 110 pound weight class to win the championship.

Beggs reached the championship after two opponents forfeited. His final victory on the mat received mixed reactions from the crowd.

This wrestling championship furthers a growing debate: Where do trans athletes fit in athletics? Is a trans woman at a biological advantage in competition against other women? Can a trans man compete against other men?

These questions struggle to find a balance between personal gender rights and “fair competition.” Recent policy has seemed to favor the latter.

The University Interscholastic League (UIL), the governing body for Texas high school wrestling, enacted the rule that prevented Beggs from competing with boys on Aug. 1, 2016 (University Interscholastic League, “UIL Statement Regarding 2017 Wrestling State Tournament,” 02.22.17).

“Ninety-five percent of the school superintendents in Texas voted for the rule as it was proposed, which was to use birth certificates,” said UIL Deputy Director Jamey Harrison(ESPN, “Transgender boy Mack Beggs wins Texas state girl’s wrestling title,” 02.26.17).

Texas is also considering a bill similar to North Carolina’s HB2, which would prevent people from using a bathroom other than that of their sex assigned at birth. Last week, the Trump administration announced an end to federal protections that allowed transgender folks to use the bathroom based on personal identity.

Policies like these can have a tremendous impact on athletics, as trans athletes will be unable to use locker rooms that identify with their gender.

However, some progress has been made for trans inclusion in sports. Chris Mosier, who spoke at Vassar in November, is the first openly trans man to make a men’s national team. Mosier was a key player in changing the International Olympic Committee rules so that trans people can compete with their identifying gender without a sex change. In June 2016, Mosier became the first trans person to compete in a world championship race.

The NCAA also revised its polices, which now allow trans men taking testosterone enhancement to compete with men and trans women taking testosterone suppression to compete with women.

Although trans athletic inclusion has been debated and analyzed a lot closer recently, it is by no means a new issue.

Back in 1975, Renee Richards was a tennis player who underwent sex reassignment surgery. Richards had a desire to be a professional women’s tennis player and was eventually allowed to compete after the New York Supreme Court ruled in her favor in 1977. Under much scrutiny and criticism for having an unfair advantage, Richards would go on to compete in the U.S. Open and be ranked as high as 20th in the world in women’s tennis.

Caitlyn Jenner, who was once regarded by many as the greatest male athlete ever after winning an Olympic gold medal in the decathlon, revealed that she was a trans woman in April of 2015.

As notability of trans athletes continues to grow, hopefully so will acceptance. Trans athletes are not changing genders to gain athletic advantages. It’s time everyone gains a fair chance to play.

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