An effort to ban transgender athletes from school sports died in the Kansas Legislature earlier this week. The State Senate couldn’t come up with enough votes to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto, so the bill failed to become law.
The whole thing was a solution in search of a problem, and I think it’s fine that the effort died. I do have a suggestion, though.
As you might guess, the Republicans were basically for the bill, and the Democrats were against it. The new local guy up there — Mike Dodson, a Republican who had recently been the mayor of Manhattan — went along with his party on it. Sydney Carlin and Tom Hawk both voted against the bill, supporting transgender athletes. They’re both Democrats.
I have a slightly different approach to all this that I’d like to propose. I think there should be two gender categories in sports: 1. Girls, and 2. Open.
Anybody can complete. Nobody gets excluded. But to play a girls’ sport, I think you have to be born a girl and remain a girl. If you’re born a boy and you transition to girl-hood, then I think you can compete in the “open” division. If you’re born a girl and you transition to boy-hood, you likewise can compete in the “open” category. Boys? They’re in “open.”
The reason is pretty simple: Testosterone.
In many sports, speed and strength are significant factors. Not all, but many. Anyway, boys have a lot more testosterone than girls, and the presence of that hormone gives them a strength advantage that girls simply do not possess. That is not to say that girls can’t be strong, or that some girls can’t be stronger than some boys. I am simply saying that its presence conveys a major strength advantage.
Even if the transition occurs before puberty, a boy who becomes a girl would have been bathed in testosterone in utero, up through the time of the transition. That background simply gives that person advantages in terms of muscle structure that cannot be denied.
If the transition goes the other way, then a girl who becomes a boy would presumably get a bunch of testosterone as part of the process — but of course this is probably not the case to be concerned about. Generally, I would assume that person would want to express him/herself as a boy anyway, so there would be no argument to compete in girls’ sports. But if there were, the answer is: Yes, you can compete. You’re in the “open” division.
This is a difficult position to take, cold and unfeeling toward individuals. A documentary on Renee Richards — the transgender woman who competed in women’s professional tennis in the 1970s — makes it clear that we’re really talking about human beings. Nobody would want to change genders just to gain an advantage in high school sports. And, because the number of cases here is likely to be so incredibly small, a strong argument can be made for just leaving the rules alone. The reason this all comes up right now is just a political tactic with a wedge issue driven by Republicans. There’s not really a problem.
But if you’re going to have rules of any kind, then somebody’s going to get hurt, because that’s just the nature of rules. Allowing somebody with the advantage of testosterone to compete against people without it is not fair to those without it. That’s a reasonable position to take, going forward.