America is in the throes of a movement to achieve “fairness” and “equity.” Its latest manifestation is the demand for transgender rights in sports participation. President Biden has signed an executive order that men who identify as women must be allowed to compete in women’s athletic competitions. With the stroke of a pen, said Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation, Biden’s order “spells the end of girls’ and women’s sports as we know them.”
Trans athletes have been competing and winning in women’s sports, to the chagrin of women athletes who can’t compete against biological men. In the past, regulations required trans athletes to compete against athletes of the same sex assigned at birth. Supporters of these regulations argue that they are necessary to ensure fair competition. Members of the trans community regard them as discriminatory.
The argument against permitting transgenders to compete with women athletes is that males are generally stronger and faster. A man who identifies as a woman is still a biological man. “Equality—fairness—in athletic competition frequently requires taking the bodily differences between males and females seriously,” said Ryan Anderson. Male and female bodies have differences in muscle mass, bone structure, and lung capacity. If we recognize these differences, Anderson said, “then it’s hard to make a claim that ‘discrimination’ in the pejorative sense has occurred.” Andrew Sullivan pointed out in New York Magazine that, “A physician who ignored these differences would lose her license.” That’s why we have separate men’s and women’s sports in the first place. When it comes to sports, said Sullivan, “separate is the only way to be fully equal.”
Women athletes want women’s sports to be the exclusive province of biological women. They fear that the benefits of women’s sports will be lost if trans athletes are admitted to competition. “Women aren’t just losing their races,” according to PragerU, “they’re losing their chances to compete at all.” They are also losing chances at coveted athletic scholarships. “Transgender males are increasingly entering and dominating women's sports at all levels, taking away opportunities that women have fought years to win,” writes Kaeley Triller in The Federalist. “Men’s and women’s bodies are different,” says Triller, a former women’s college basketball player. “It’s not rocket science, it’s biology, and it turns out biology is one bigoted son of a gun. Anatomy discriminates.”
Trans athletes, on the other hand, are insisting that their rights will be violated if they cannot compete as women. They are backed up by the ACLU, which said trans people may experience “detrimental effects” to their physical and emotional wellbeing when they’re pushed out of “affirming spaces and communities.” According to the ACLU, the idea that trans athletes’ physiological characteristics might provide them with some “unfair advantage” in sports is a myth. The ACLU said the bans are “discriminatory, harmful and unscientific.” The Human Rights Campaign issued a manual alleging that, “Concerns about competitive advantage are unfounded and often grounded in stereotypes about the differences and abilities of males vs. females.”
But are they really nothing more than stereotypes? Take these examples. Fallon Fox is a male MMA fighter who competes in the women’s division. Fox ended the career of his opponent, Tamikka Brents, within the first three minutes of their fight when he shattered her eye socket, an injury requiring seven staples in her head. Brents declared that, “I’ve never felt so overpowered in all my life.” Hannah Mouncey played on the Australian men’s national handball team before he decided to grow out his hair and declare himself a woman. Now he dominates the women’s team. And what about women’s tennis great Serena Williams? She challenged the 203rd-ranked player from the men’s league and lost badly. 275 high school boys ran faster times than the lifetime best of the women’s world champion sprinter.
The question then arises, do transgender persons have a right to participate in women’s sports? Does a ban violate their civil rights? Cisgender men don’t qualify for women’s teams—are they being denied their rights? There is no “right” that says you can demand whatever you want. If I decide tomorrow morning that I identify as a woman, it doesn’t give me the right to demand that everyone should celebrate my decision. All I have a right to expect is tolerance. The Left has confused tolerance with celebration. Tolerance for a minority group should not imply that the majority must accept and celebrate minority viewpoints. I can be tolerant of transgender individuals without affirming the biological integrity of their choice.
Transgender people are a tiny minority of the population. We should be able to accommodate the rights of our minorities without depriving the majority of theirs. If the demands of a minority come into conflict with those of the majority, the majority prevails—unless great harm is being done to members of the minority—in which case you find a compromise, such as setting up separate teams for transgender athletes. That’s how it works in a democracy. The needs of millions of women take precedence over those of a small group of transgenders.
Sadly, the Left often demands that the majority should celebrate and adopt the minority position. It is what I call the “tyranny of the minority.” University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson faced a comparable situation when he refused to use gender-neutral pronouns—alternative pronouns as requested by trans students or staff, like the singular 'they' or 'ze' and 'zir', used by some as alternatives to 'she' or 'he'. Peterson was accused of violating the Ontario Human Rights code. Some students and faculty complained that his refusal was “emotionally disturbing and painful”—disregarding the possibility that forcing everyone to abide by their rules might be emotionally painful to other people. Peterson did not object to the trans community choosing which pronoun they prefer. He objected when they tried to force him to comply. In his view, coercing everyone to use the preferred pronouns of transgenders would be a form of compelled speech or government mandated speech. “I’m not using the words that other people require me to use,” Peterson said. “Especially if they’re made up by radical left-wing ideologues.” He was ultimately vindicated.
Should a person be allowed to choose their sexual identity? Yes. The real question is, should their decision be binding on the rest of us? Simply because a man decides he is a woman does not require everyone to go along with it. We have the right to disagree. Female athletes have the right to demand a chance to compete under conditions of fairness. “That’s why sex-based protections exist in the first place,” says Triller. “Without them, women like me would never be able to afford our college educations, as men would have swept up the scholarships we received. And that’s exactly what’s starting to happen.”