The world of sports over the last 30 years has often been a sea of negative trends around excessive emphasis on money and an indifference to fans. The biggest positive development that I’ve seen is the growing participation and competition open to girls at the college, high school, and elementary school levels. We are living in a time when female athletes are setting records and pushing one another to high achievement.
Studies undertaken by the Women’s Sports Foundation and others indicate that high school girls who play sports are less likely to be involved in an unwanted pregnancy, more likely to get better grades in school, and more likely to graduate than girls who do not play sports.
A long well-respected study by Dr. Betsey Stevenson, formerly with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and now at the University of Michigan, found that increasing girls’ sports participation had a direct positive effect on women’s education and employment. She found that the changes that came out of Title IX resulted in about 20 percent of the increase in women’s education and employment for 25-to -34-year-old women.
In the past, these gains were won by fighting back against those men who thought female athletes should settle for poor resources, facilities, and attention. Now there is a major politically correct situation on the horizon for women’s sports.
The AP reports that 17 states allow transgender high school athletes can compete without restrictions. These means boys who were born biologically males can compete in female sports without completing sex-reassignment procedures or hormone therapies. This past week, the Daily Caller reported that 234 House Democrats and two Republicans, including Bucks County Republican Brian Fitzpatrick, co-sponsored a bill that would force schools to let male athletes who identify as girls to compete on girls’ sports teams. This was billed as an equality bill.
This kind of law would accelerate a diminished future for women’s sports. The state of Connecticut has become the epicenter of this battle. Brianna Heldt, writing at Townhall.com, chronicles the exploits of biological males Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, who identify as girls and who took first and second place in the recent Connecticut indoor track girl’s championships. She quoted fellow competitor Selina Soule, who missed qualifying for the New England regionals by just two spots and she said, “We all know the outcome of the race before it even starts; it’s demoralizing. I fully support and am happy for these athletes for being true to themselves. They should have the right to express themselves in school, but athletics have always had extra rules to keep the competition fair.”
Selina better be careful with her comments. As Rich Lowry noted in the New York Post, former tennis icon Martina Navratilova wrote that situations such as Connecticut’s are “insane and cheating.” For these comments, she was roundly attacked as transphobic and swiftly kicked off the board of the LGBT group Athlete Ally. He further reports that former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies , from Britain, got overwhelmingly attacked for expressing the same ideas.
It seems to me that clearly there is something very wrong with what’s happening. To add insult to injury, Miller in an interview last year on Good Morning America argued that female runners should just have to commit to working harder rather than complaining about the unfairness of racing against male runners.
Connecticut parents have started two petition drives to change the situation and restore some fairness. The next big battleground area on this issue will be the Olympics. As Lowry writes, Olympic officials have dropped a requirement for sex-reassignment surgery for transgender athletes, and there is a maximum level testosterone for transgender women, but it will still be high for biological females.
The margin of competition in the Olympics between winning a medal and not is razor-thin. I feel for those female athletes who lose out by those margins because of the advantages transgender athletes might have. However, I am much more worried about girls who are great athletes honing their skills over many years and having very little or no shot to win at state championships and other big events.
What do we say to those girls?