Giving women a sporting chance
Christiana Holcomb | Women’s sports laws are about more than fairness and safety—they’re about love of neighbor
A sports bill that allows only female athletes to compete on girls’ teams is currently winding its way through the Texas Legislature. After passing a state House committee on Oct. 4, the bill now awaits a full House vote. If passed and signed into law, Texas would join eight other states that have passed laws to protect fairness and safety for female athletes.
Just a few years ago, such a step would have seemed meaningless. (After all, who but girls would compete on girls’ teams anyway?) Yet bills protecting women’s sports are a necessary response to the ever-increasing demand that males who identify as female be allowed to play girls’ sports, too.
For decades, we as a society have separated sports teams by sex. This isn’t to reinforce stereotypes but to give girls a meaningful chance to win. That’s because biological sex isn’t just relevant to athletic performance—it’s the difference-maker. After puberty, males are generally bigger, faster, taller, and stronger than females. These characteristics give males a 10 to 50 percent performance advantage over comparably gifted and trained female athletes—no other physical advantage comes close. Study after study shows that testosterone suppression does not eliminate that performance gap.
As legal scholar Doriane Coleman and tennis legend Martina Navratilova wrote, “The evidence is unequivocal that starting in puberty, in every sport except sailing, shooting and riding, there will always be significant numbers of boys and men who would beat the best girls and women in head-to-head competition. Claims to the contrary are simply a denial of science.”
Sprinter Allyson Felix, one of the most well-known and accomplished female athletes of our time, holds more World Championship medals than any other person in history. But in 2017 alone, her lifetime best in the 400 meters was defeated more than 15,000 times by males—including high school boys.
It isn’t discrimination to point out these measurable differences between men and women. In fact, ignoring those differences leads to discrimination against women.
That’s what happened to Chelsea Mitchell. Chelsea was ranked the fastest female athlete in Connecticut in the 55-meter dash. Yet even Chelsea lost not just one, but four state championship titles to biologically male athletes who competed in girls’ high school track.
But Chelsea wasn’t the only girl who lost out. In just three years, these two males won 15 women’s championship titles and set 17 new track records—records that biological girls fear they have no hope of breaking. As a result, dozens of other Connecticut girls lost opportunities to advance to higher levels of competition.
And this is happening across the country. Last year, spectators watched in disbelief as a University of Montana male athlete sped past elite female runners to claim the women’s Big Sky Conference championship in the mile. In New Hampshire, a male athlete at Franklin Pierce University vaulted from 390th place in men’s hurdling to a national championship victory in women’s hurdling just two years later. A mother-daughter duo from Maui have both faced male athletes in their sports. And recent lawsuits in both West Virginia and Florida highlight that this trend continues to accelerate across the country.
Not only does this trend discourage female athletes and undermine girls’ athletic opportunities, but it promotes a lie about who we are as human beings. Each person is wonderfully and immutably created as either male or female. That can’t change. And true human flourishing comes not from manipulating our bodies into an image of the other sex, but in learning to live in harmony with our bodies. Biological sex—like all good gifts—comes from the hand of a good and loving Creator.
By contrast, gender identity ideology is at war with reality. And it leaves havoc in its wake. Young women regret the surgeries they thought would make them men. Female inmates are trapped in prison cells with violent male offenders. Health care providers fear losing their jobs because they refuse to participate in surgical mutilation. Allowing a false ideology to gain a foothold in law perpetuates these harms—if not to us personally, then to our neighbors.
That’s why it’s encouraging to see lawmakers step up to the plate to protect girls’ sports. However, this isn’t just about fairness, safety, or even sports: It’s about ensuring that our laws reflect reality.
So whether you know a female athlete or not, each one of us has a stake in ensuring that our laws promote the good of our neighbors. Because living consistently with reality is the only way to promote true human flourishing.
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