The usual suspects recently emerged to criticize Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob Stefanowski for his willingness to challenge the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s policy of allowing transgender athletes to compete in girls’ high school athletics.
The CT Mirror reported that Stefanowski merely “questioned the process and analysis behind the policy without suggesting a reversal — a move the Trump administration unsuccessfully demanded of Governor Ned Lamont in 2020.”
“Connecticut law prohibits discrimination,” Stefanowski said. “It is up to high school athletic conferences to seek the voices of young female athletes, coaches and parents to develop policies that ensure a level playing field and protect girls’ sports.
“To this day, I don’t think the impact this is having on all women’s sport has been adequately addressed. This goes beyond fairness. It’s about security. This needs to be evaluated and we need policies that work for everyone. “
A rather shrewd perspective given the controversy (and lawsuits) that have ensued over whether two transgender runners, recent grads Terry Miller of Bloomfield and Andraya Yearwood of Cromwell, who have won 15 championship races combined, should have been allowed to compete against cisgenders (a person whose gender identity matches that person’s birth-assigned biological sex) peers.
Ah, but then politics staged a coup d’état against Stefanowski’s wisdom, proving once again that life is far messier when one takes a nuanced stance, especially now that the agenda overshadows critical thinking.
Indeed, the entire transgender sports discussion illustrates the dangers of deep thinking at a time when echo chambers have never been more convenient and convenient. The nuance in this case: laws that protect the rights of transgender citizens. While necessary and fair, it must be adjusted to take into account sport and the inherent physical components required for success.
Gender discrimination in education, health care, housing and financial credit has no place in this country. But we must recognize and accept that sport is different because of the unique physical demands as they relate to life’s other commitments and competitions. Let’s put it this way: Applying to a school or for health care, housing or financial credit does not require a physical component to be successful. Sport requires speed, strength and agility and cannot be lumped together.
And yet the sport is routinely pushed into the same arguments about unfair treatment. Injustices are piled up for rhetorical use even though they are not applicable.
Example: Boston Globe columnist Renee Graham recently wrote an otherwise thoughtful and insightful article about Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama and her Byzantine legislation that made it a crime to provide gender-affirming medical care to anyone under the age of 19. Ivey was the first governor to advocate criminalizing medical professionals who provide youth with necessary care related to gender identity.
But a few paragraphs later, Graham wrote: “In Texas, where gender-affirming foster care has been mislabeled as child abuse, Gov. Greg Abbott has encouraged citizens to report parents suspected of using such treatment on their children to state authorities Report to. including Texas, have laws preventing trans children from competing on school athletic teams that match their gender identity.”
We’re sorry. But this is where I get off the train. Criminalizing parents for seeking medical treatment for their children and banning transgender athletes from sports teams do not fit under the same umbrella.
Oh, it’s certainly a comfortable stance considering both seem discriminatory. But what does seeking medical treatment have to do with racing or swimming a lap with a biological physical advantage? Seeking medical treatment requires a phone call or email, which anyone is capable of. Completing a race requires athletic ability that varies from person to person.
“Whatever you think about gender identity in general, the simple fact is that in athletics, it’s biology that matters, not a person’s identity,” wrote Bianca Stanescu, who filed a February 2020 lawsuit against CIAC over its policies submitted to allow transgender athletes to compete based on their gender identity. “Gender identity can be changed. Gender is embedded in our DNA and cannot be changed. It’s reflected in realities like lung capacity and bone density. Gender is not gender.”
Science shows it. The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a nonprofit research and education organization, studied transgender men and women who had been on hormone treatment for a year. The conclusion: “Despite the robust gains in muscle mass and strength in TM (transgender males), TW (transgender females) were still stronger and had more muscle mass after 12 months of treatment. These results add new insights that may be relevant when assessing trans women’s suitability to compete in athletic competitions in the women’s category.
More evidence: Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix, who has shared the most World Championship gold medals with Usain Bolt, has a lifetime best time of 49.26 seconds in the 400 meters. In 2018 alone, 275 high school boys ran faster on 783 occasions, according to one of the lawsuits against CIAC.
Meanwhile, here we are on the 50th anniversary of Title IX, watching transgender athletes threaten the advancement of women’s athletics.
I refer in such cases to Duke University law professor Doriane Coleman, who not only writes about sex and the law, but also has athletic experience from her days as an NCAA champion in the 800 and 4×400 at Cornell. Professor Coleman and I have become email buddies as a result of things we’ve written about transgender athletes.
“The inclusion of trans women and girls, regardless of their level of male development or hormonal status, decreases female athletes’ chances of winning podiums and championships,” Coleman wrote in an email. “Indeed, this means, as some advocacy groups have claimed, that women in girls’ and women’s sports only have the right to participate, not to win.”
Many participants in the NCAA basketball tournament last month wore warm-up shirts with the words from Title IX, “The 37 Words That Changed America.” But is there anyone genuinely interested in developing Title IX to further transform America? The athletes most hurt by the transgender sports movement are cisgender women. That’s why the criticism of Stefanowski reveals that he wants more answers, the entire women’s sports movement.
I could of course stop right here. Many of you don’t care about science, nuance, or the truth. They see Stefanowski’s name on it and automatically dismiss it as talkative propaganda. In the same way, others see something associated with Governor Lamont or President Biden and start with Brandons and Snowflakes. Rinse and repeat.
And we’re getting nowhere.
So I ask again, why can’t we consider a sport-centric law that recognizes the unique challenges of sport and takes into account the physical component of success that exists virtually nowhere else in society? Again, gender discrimination in education, health care, housing, and financial credit has no place in this country. But we have to – have to – recognize and accept that sport is different.
And to criticize Stefanowski for his willingness to investigate the issue because it goes against a political agenda shows once again that many people in this country are not as smart as they think they are.
That’s the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro