The anti-trans distraction

When a political party has no solutions to real problems, it has to make up fake problems.

As I discussed in the previous post, and have covered in more detail before, the GOP is not a governing party any more. If you are concerned with any real problem facing America today, they have no plan for dealing with it.

When a party is in that situation, it needs to distract the public with phony issues and phony solutions. And so, Republican majorities in legislatures around the country are passing voter-suppression laws under the guise of solving an “election integrity” problem that doesn’t exist, and is based on the Big Lie that Trump had the 2020 election stolen from him.

Those laws are a serious threat to our democracy, but at least the threat is obvious to the general public, which can then organize against it. You don’t need any special experiences or insight to understand that Georgia Republicans did something underhanded when they made it illegal to give water to people waiting in line to vote.

But the second distraction is easier for most of the electorate to overlook, because it only affects a minority that is reviled by the conservative base and misunderstood by much of the rest of the public: transgender people.

Gender-affirming care. Two kinds of anti-trans bills are working their way through red-state legislatures, and some have already become law. One bans what is called “gender-affirming care”: medical interventions (like puberty-blocking drugs) that suppress the development of characteristics related to the gender the child wants to transition from or (like estrogen or testosterone) encourage the development of characteristics related to the gender the child wants to transition to. So even if a child, the child’s parents, and their doctors all agree on a course of treatment, the state makes it illegal.

To justify such laws, Republicans have spread a lot of lies and misinformation about what gender-affirming care really is, when it is recommended, and how it is carried out. Good sources of accurate information on these topics are this Harvard Review article and this resolution from the American Psychological Association.

As the HR article points out, anti-trans activists have changed their tactics, but not their goals. A few years ago, anti-trans “bathroom bills” were justified by painting trans youth as predators: They would invade your child’s gender-appropriate bathroom for nefarious purposes. The current wave of anti-trans bills paints them as victims: They need “protection” from the gender-transition “fad” sweeping their generation, and the predatory doctors who profit from it. But these contradictory messages are being pushed by exactly the same people.

Trans athletes. The second kind of bill bans trans girls from sports. The Guardian summarizes:

The youth sports bills, which claim to “promote fairness in women’s sports”, are based on a simple claim: that boys will be allowed to compete against girls and have an unfair advantage.

“They’re telling parents of cisgender children that you’re losing something by allowing transgender youth to play in sports,” said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an LGBTQ+ rights group. “We’ve seen this playbook before – you’re losing something if you allow same-sex couples to marry, if you protect racial minorities in the workplace, if immigration laws are respected. It’s us v them.”

In the same way that the bills to “protect” gender dysphoric youth are promoted by groups that were never interested in them before, these bills to protect girls sports are championed mostly by legislators who have shown little interest in girls sports until now. (Like the bathroom bills and the bills banning gender-affirming care, many of the girls-sports bills have been written by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group motivated by conservative Christian religious views.)

The expressed motivation for such bills can be found in Florida’s “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act“:

It is the intent of the Legislature to maintain opportunities for female athletes to demonstrate their skill, strength, and athletic abilities while also providing them with opportunities to obtain recognition and accolades, college scholarships, and the numerous other long-term benefits that result from success in athletic endeavors and to promote sex equality by requiring the designation of separate sex-specific athletic teams or sports.

And that sounds marvelous, but for one fact: There’s no reason to believe that any of those opportunities for female athletes are at risk. As an ACLU report observes “transgender women and girls have been competing in sports at all levels for years”. In no state are girls sports events or teams dominated by trans athletes. Similarly, the WNBA, LPGA, and other professional women’s sports leagues have not been not overrun with trans women.

Across the country, girls participate in sports if they want to. They are not running into problems that a trans-ban will solve.

Occasionally, but not that often, some trans athlete is really good.

Running on the boys’ team as a ninth-grader in suburban Hartford, Terry Miller was an average track athlete, online records show, failing to qualify for any postseason events. But in 2018, Miller came out as a transgender girl. In her first season running against other girls, as a sophomore, Miller dominated. She won five state championships and two titles at the New England championships, beating the fastest girls from six states.

The next fall, as a junior, Miller won another four state titles and two more all-New England titles. In several races, she was followed closely by Andraya Yearwood, another transgender girl who had also won three state titles. … Girls who lost to [Miller] and their coaches complained that she had an unfair advantage. Parents of other girls started online petitions demanding state high school officials add a testosterone suppression requirement for transgender girls.

One measure of how rare such a situation is, though, is the number of articles that use this same example. (Anybody got a second one?) Retired high school coach Larry Strauss called competition from trans athletes a “non-controversy”.

Competitive equity is a beautiful and elusive objective for those of us who coach or oversee high school athletics. It is why we have junior varsity teams and freshmen and sophomore teams and why we try to match up teams that won’t slaughter one another. It often does not work out that way and we have all seen and heard about lopsided scores in high school football and basketball and pretty much every other sport. 

There are athletes whose physical gifts and athletic talent make them so dominant that it really doesn’t seem fair (I know firsthand, having coached against some of them). And does anyone believe there is any justice in the so-called “genetic lottery”? 

Scientifically, the jury is still out on when or whether trans girl athletes — particularly the ones who transitioned without going through puberty, or have received hormone treatments — have an advantage over cis girl athletes, and if so, how big that advantage is.

But what we do know is that girls sports are doing fine. To me, the right question isn’t whether trans athletes occasionally win, or even whether those victories violate some abstract ideal of fairness. The right question is whether including trans athletes ruins female sports programs for everybody else. That seems not to be happening.

In the absence of an identifiable problem, the point of these bills seems to be to harm and stigmatize transgender folk, not to protect impressionable teens or girls sports programs.

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  • james  On April 19, 2021 at 11:43 am

    i feel like oppressing, stigmatizing, outright harming trans people and making being trans dangerous is a specific goal of the people pushing these laws and this article would benefit from calling that out.

    for example the framework the GOP uses by casting trans kids as the victims of puberty blockers is contrary to the reality that trans kids are being victimized by blocking puberty blockers. keeping the frame of the article in line with the GOP helps them hide the very real harm they’re doing to trans kids!

  • Anonymous  On April 19, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    These people who want girls to have opportunities in sports, are they voting to fund girl’s sports? No? That should tell you something.

  • elvishpresley  On April 19, 2021 at 1:46 pm

    Going through male puberty confers an unfair advantage over athletes that haven’t done so – male puberty increases heart and lung capacity, while female puberty alters the conformation of the hip and knee joints, and none of this will change no matter what hormones are given or repressed. High school boys routinely outperform most Olympic level female athletes, just look at the records for each sex. And regarding puberty blockers – how are children too mentally and emotionally immature to vote, drive, sign a binding legal contract, or even get a tattoo anywhere near the maturity level to agree to alter their bodies permanently?

    • EricPrinceofFlorin  On April 19, 2021 at 8:21 pm

      I have great news for you! Puberty blockers are not permanent, and trans kids don’t get to just walk into a clinic and ask for them and walk out with a prescription 5 minutes later! That’s why they’re the treatment of choice for prepubescents as opposed to surgeries (which are also reversible, but obviously much more invasive). Regarding the rest of your pathetic, bad-faith comment, let’s circle back on Doug’s points above: can you name a situation where trans girls have been dramatically outperforming cisgender girls outside of the Connecticut track athletes?

      • Anonymous  On April 19, 2021 at 10:05 pm

        Trans girls entering girls sports is a recent phenomena, I would say just wait it’ll happen more and more frequently as the numbers increase.

      • EricPrinceofFlorin  On April 21, 2021 at 4:31 pm

        @Anonymous phenomenon*

      • weeklysift  On April 26, 2021 at 6:34 am

        If we were talking about people dying, I might agree with Anon that we need to get out in front of this before the problem appears. But by waiting, we’re just risking some girls finishing second rather than first, or being junior-varsity rather than varsity. So I think we should see if the problem actually develops before taking action against it.

      • Reed  On April 26, 2021 at 11:32 am

        I haven’t see any actual studies showing that puberty blockers are not permanent, could you share some links? It would be good news if that’s the case. It’s my understanding that these drugs were developed for treating advanced prostate cancer and have been used to castrate sex offenders.

        I’m there’s no studies showing a vaginoplasty or a double mastectomy can be reversed, so don’t bother with that. I’m sure you realize you’re not correct.

    • Linda  On April 25, 2021 at 6:17 am

      I am asking in good faith where you have read this. I did some light googling and found some web sites and local news articles but no studies. I have never heard this statistic. I would also say – so what? Do exceptional male high school athletes grow into exceptional adult athletes who might compete at an Olympic level and out-compete contemporary female athletes? I’m sure it has happened. But so what? Is it your honest belief that male athletes will begin lying about their gender identity to win medals in women’s sports? What about the harassment and discrimination they will face in every other aspect of their lives from bigots in order to keep up the ruse?

      Also, we routinely allow children who are too young to vote or smoke or get a tattoo to participate in their own health care, which by definition often has lifelong consequences. Do you think that’s a bad thing??

  • rmc0917  On April 19, 2021 at 5:32 pm

    Of course Republicans are against Biden’s Infrastructure bill. It is heavy on Transportation, and they are against TRANS-anything!

  • James Donald Bishop  On April 20, 2021 at 4:07 pm

    As with the decision to abort or not, having support for transgender kids should be between the person and his/her state representative.

  • Daniel  On April 25, 2021 at 9:58 am

    Actually, transgender activism is itself a distraction, given that transpeople are themselves postmodernist constructs. Transgender ideology denies biological reality and, like abortion, is a eugenicist plot to control the fecundity of nonwhite people. White elites, including liberal Democrats, want to pose as the saviours of nonwhites while simultaneously luring them to their extinction via abortion on demand, vaccines, puberty blockers, contraception, transgender ideology, homosexuality, “woke” ideology (getting an education, particularly in STEM, and speaking proper English is now “acting white” and “racist”), and so on. All these tactics are part of the trans-humanist agenda.

    • weeklysift  On April 26, 2021 at 6:30 am

      All the trans people I know personally are white (which is not saying much, most of the people I know personally are white). So I’m not grasping how this anti-POC plot is supposed to work.


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