The controversy of biological males competing against biological females in sports did not really surface until transgender swimmer Lia Thomas tied with biological female Riley Gaines in the 2022 NCAA women’s championships. It was a shot heard round the world, igniting a firestorm of diverse opinions on the fairness of allowing transgender women to compete against biological women.
Not content to dominate swimming, transgender people are competing in other female sports as well. In January of 2023, transgender female bicyclist Austin Killips won the women’s Union Cycliste Internationale stage race, sparking threats of violence against race director Michael Engleman.
Engleman lamented, “This could kill the sport.” He added, “I know how hard it is to get people to put money into a women’s team at any level. And now they are asking, ‘Is this something I can touch?’ What if an athlete says the wrong thing? This is harming the sport. It’s a reality that somebody has to speak about.”
In March of 2023, the World Athletics Council weighed in, ruling that transgender women cannot compete in women’s track events at the Olympics, citing the need to “prioritize fairness and the integrity of the female competition over inclusion.”
Council president Sebastian Coe issued a press release about the decision, stating, “Decisions are always difficult when they involve conflicting needs and rights between different groups, but we continue to take the view that we must maintain fairness for female athletes above all other considerations.”
It is an opinion that resonates among Americans, Recent poll findings reveal that support for transgenders in female competitions is dropping. In 2021, 34% of Americans believed that transgender people should compete in female sports compared to only 26% of Americans supporting the idea today.
Over 69% of Americans now say transgender athletes should be restricted to sports teams that conform with their birth gender, up from 62% in 2021, and surprisingly, Democrats are split nearly down the middle on the debate with 47% supporting the idea and 48% opposing.
Republicans remain united in their opposition, with 93% opposed. Independents oppose the concept of transgender women in sports by 67%.
It is interesting to note that this drop in support occurs even as more Americans personally know someone who identifies as transgender. In 2021, 31% of Americans knew transgender individuals, with that number rising to 39% in recent polls.
Despite popular opinion, Democrats continue to push their battle against biological women. In April, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Protecting Women and Girls in Sports Act, prohibiting transgender women athletes from playing on women’s sports teams and withholding funding from schools that violate the rule. The bill is not expected to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The younger generation, raised in a world of LGBTQ acceptance, is more likely to support transgender athletes in sports. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, a full 60% feel that changing one’s gender is morally acceptable while only 32% of Americans 50 and older agree. Young adults saw a rise in support for transgender athletes choosing their team, up from 35% in 2021 to 41% in the recent poll.
Democrats are playing the long game, hoping that as Gen Z ages, their idealism will replace the older population’s more rigid value systems. But for Americans, the issue is not transgender people. It is the unfairness of allowing biological men to compete against biological females in female sports.
The World Athletics Council’s criteria for transgender athletes include banning athletes who transitioned from male to female after going through puberty as a male from competing in women’s sports. It also lowers the levels of testosterone the athletes can have to compete in women’s events to competing outside the restricted events, who will be required to suppress their testosterone level to 2.5 nanomoles per liter for six months prior to the event.
According to a research paper released by Stéphane Bermon, head of the World Athletics’ scientific team, women with higher levels of testosterone performed better than those with normal levels. The study was founded on real-world data gathered from elite female runners and is the best data available to date. As expected, however, international groups, like Human Rights Watch, disagree with the findings of the paper.
Lowering acceptable levels of testosterone for female athletes creates a new problem entirely. Many biological women have medical conditions, such as hirsutism, polycystic ovary syndrome, and congenital adrenal hyperplasia. that lead to elevated testosterone levels. In addition, several Black female athletes have been disqualified for elevated levels of testosterone, including Francine Niyonsaba, Christine Mboma, Beatrice Masilingi, Caster Semenya, Aminatou Seyni, and Margaret Wambui, adding a racial component to an already divisive debate.
The facts remain, however; women with higher testosterone levels hold a competitive edge against female athletes who do not. Most Americans are ok with this, however, as the same holds true in men’s athletic events as well. A taller male basketball player will generally have an advantage over a smaller one when playing certain positions.
Hudson Taylor, founder and executive director of advocacy group Athlete Ally, claim that new regulations “do nothing to address what we know to be the actual, proven threats to women’s sports: unequal pay, rampant sexual abuse and harassment, lack of women in leadership and inequities in resources for women athletes.”
Taylor adds, “We are beyond devastated to see World Athletics succumbing to political pressure instead of core principles of inclusion, fairness and non-discrimination for transgender athletes and athletes with intersex variations,”
The facts are at odds with Taylor’s comments and the progressive agenda. The new rules are designed to support women in sports by allowing them to compete on a level playing field, fulfilling his vision of “fairness.”
Of course, fairness has never mattered to progressives. But if polling results are accurate, it matters to most Americans. The Democrats have once again, and predictably, overplayed their hand.