Parents who are afraid of transgender children in youth sports have lost the plot

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Before we go any further, I hope that we can all agree, emphatically and wholeheartedly, that any legislator whose idea of ​​fairness in youth sport requires giving gynecological examinations to children has completely lost the plot.

This is where we are with an amendment to a new bill that was passed in the Ohio House of Representatives earlier this month (the Senate President said the Senate is likely to hold hearings on related bills this fall). The bill will require children of the “disputed” sex to provide a statement to a doctor categorizing them as male or female. The doctor’s examination will assess “the participant’s internal and external anatomy,” the bill said, as well as “the participant’s” normal endogenously produced testosterone levels “and” participant’s genetic makeup analysis. “

“Internal and external anatomy” is a phrase that sounds both clinical and benign, so it is worth clarifying that the anatomy under assessment will not be a nose or a leg; it would be the genitals. I called the American Academy of Pediatrics to see how they read the language of the bill. Melissa Arnold, CEO of AAP in Ohio, told me, “Our interpretation is that you really need to see the genitals and, for a woman, have a full gynecological examination.” She added that it would be traumatic for the children. and that the AAP opposes the bill.

I contacted the original sponsor of the amendment, Representative Jenna Powell, to see if she had a different explanation for how an exam would be conducted, which did not include placing 14-year-old children in stirrups. Her office sent her an e-mail statement, which read in part: “Parents must be reassured that their daughters will always face equal conditions in our country.” She did not answer my question.

Another thing that is worth clarifying is that the bill does not use the word “transsexual” or “intersex” – only “disputed”. This means that probably if your daughter anoints my daughter 300 meters with obstacles, I could cry and ask for an internal and external investigation. That’s what the AAP read, Arnold said.

The purpose of this column is not simply to criticize this bill, although it deserves it. The point is to assume that in discussions about transgender children involved in sports, some of us have become so engrossed in discussions about testosterone, genetics, and genitals that we have completely, utterly lost the plot.

Perspective: Republicans thought it was easy to define “woman.” Then they tried.

In general, people who oppose transgender children playing sports with cisgender teammates do so using one of two bad arguments. First: The fact that transgender girls share softball courts or buses with cisgender girls is unnatural and strange and puts these girls at risk of physical harm. Second, that transgender girls have an unfair biological advantage. The Cisgender girls can’t win against them, the argument goes, so the playing field can never be equal.

Many decent people may recognize the first argument as discriminatory and fanatical, but I know a few worthy people who are fueled by the second because of the “feminism” in which it is often disguised – the idea that gender women should be protected not because they are fragile. but because we want them to be strong. Their biological composition, they argue, prevents them from being as physically strong as transgender girls. People who believe in this say they don’t mind trance children in schools or youth groups, but when it comes to sports, they think it’s fair for gender girls to be able to compete and win.

It is this line of thinking that leads to accounts like Ohio’s: the belief that this is not discrimination, but science.

This argument is unconvincing from a medical point of view: research on the athletic performance of trans individuals focuses primarily on fully grown adults, not children. In addition, many school-age transatlees do not dominate the field. They come in third, fourth or ninth place and therefore we just don’t hear about them. Even the controversial UPenn swimmer Leah Thomas finished in an inconspicuous fifth place in one of her events at the NCAA Championships this spring.

But my biggest problem with the “biology not bigotry” argument is that the issues it raises about nanomolar hormones and what the doctor sees during a teen’s invasive medical examination seem largely irrelevant to the concept of youth. sports.

As a mother of a daughter, the most pertinent question is: What is the purpose of my daughter to play sports as a start?

This is the only plot worth sticking to. For me, as for everyone else who doesn’t raise Katie Ledeki or Naomi Osaka, the goal of the sport is to embrace physical fitness, gain a sense of community, improve self-discipline and learn how to work hard, collaborate on a team and to win and lose gracefully.

“There are things we can all agree we want for our children,” said Chris Bright, director of public education at Trevor Project, a crisis intervention program for LGBTQ youth. When transgender children were banned from playing, Bright said, “We say you don’t deserve access to these benefits or this space.”

Winning in youth sports is good, but not necessary. In junior high school and high school, I swam happily in teams with the fastest record, followed by swimming happily for the same teams, where I was suddenly close to the bottom: I had reached 5 feet 5 and my teammates kept growing.

This is another valuable lesson from youth sports: that genetics is a lottery. Children learn that there will often be someone who, through no fault of their own, is born with longer legs or earlier growth, or whose parents can afford private buses and tour crews. All you can do is swim your own race.

So if you tell me that my daughter can only win if a transgender girl who desperately needs teammates is banned from playing, or if my daughter’s education in honesty and sportsmanship should include looking after her mother ask another girl to have a pelvic exam, then I tell you to put your speculum in the hole you choose. I prefer to teach my daughter to take second place with pride.

Because while you offer gynecological examinations for the other players on your daughter’s team, you are announcing that the goal of the sport is either to win at all costs or to exclude others from the game. You are neglecting the most important goal of youth sports: to teach children that if they ever have to choose between an exceptional athlete and an exceptional person, humanity must win every time.

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