- The transgender athlete dispute has exposed one of the ways that liberal ideology is at odds with science.
- Female athletes and some feminist activists have spoken out about unfair competition arising from biological men competing in women’s sports.
- “I lost the opportunity to get noticed,” one female runner told The Daily Caller.
Democrats have long claimed to be the party of science, but on an increasing number of issues, party activists are pushing ideological agendas that are at odds with scientific evidence — sometimes to the detriment of the people they intend to help.
California Sen. and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris is proposing that businesses prove they compensate men and women the same or pay a fine, although evidence shows the pay gap is not due to discrimination, but to women making different choices about work. We know obesity is a dangerous medical condition, yet left-wing activists now demand obesity be celebrated and encouraged, actively working against the once-universally accepted idea that a good physique, diet and exercise is, well, good.
Nowhere is this disconnect between science and modern liberal ideology (and its harm to those the party claims to champion) so evident as in the dispute over transgender athletes who demand to compete in women’s sports.
On one side of the debate you have people like Jaycee Cooper, a transgender woman who is in a dispute with USA Powerlifting because the federation doesn’t allow biological men to compete with women. USA Powerlifting says Cooper has an unfair advantage over them as a biological male, but Cooper says it’s discriminatory to ban transgender people from competing with the sex they identify with.
“I really do love this sport, and it’s not fair to genetically eliminate an entire group of people,” Cooper told NBC News.
The federation rules do allow transgender athletes to compete freely in competition with people of their biological sex, with the exception of biological women who use testosterone. But more importantly, Cooper’s discrimination argument disregards the fact that women’s sports are designed to exclude an entire group of people — men — from the competition in order to level the playing field.
The federation president told NBC News that USA Powerlifting researched the differences between men and women’s bodies before implementing the ban, and concluded that hormone treatments do not reverse the advantages conferred to biological males by puberty, which include increased body and muscle mass, bone density, bone structure and connective tissue.
“Allowing the male to female transgender athlete to compete against biological female athletes is contrary to the rights of biological females and to the drug testing rules of USA Powerlifting,” the organization’s legal counsel said in a newsletter quoted by Deadspin, adding: “While it might be emotionally provoking to demand the rights of a few, the rights of others — the athletes who wish to compete in an organization with rules that provide clean and fair sport — must also be considered.”
One of those other athletes is Selina Soule, a girl who was forced to compete against two boys who identify as girls in a Connecticut high school track competition. Soule lost out on a chance to perform in front of college scouts, while the biological boys dominated the competition and were awarded medals for courage. Soule is vocally pushing back against the rules. (RELATED: Males Continue To Dominate Girls’ High School Track In Connecticut)
“It is discouraging to start a race knowing how it will end, knowing that you don’t have a chance,” Soule told the Caller. “Men are physically superior to women, everybody knows that. When women have to compete against men, women will lose.” (One of the biological boys brushed off concerns about an unfair advantage by saying it should just motivate the girls to “run faster.”)
“I lost the opportunity to get noticed,” Soule said.
Liberal activists and much of the press are positioned firmly on the side of Cooper and these two transgender athletes. They generate political support, glowing headlines and uncritical write-ups that celebrate their successes, while the voices of women and girls like Soule are often left out of the conversation entirely. A 7 minute Vice News video about Cooper’s dispute with USA Powerlifting, for example, did not include the perspectives of any female competitors who disagree with Cooper. Similarly, ABC News put together an extensive video on the Connecticut runners, but did not talk to Soule, or any other girls the biological boys competed against. (RELATED: Media Reports On Transgender Athletes All Seem To Be Missing One Thing)
Those women who make their voices heard are labeled transphobic. Martina Navratilova, an 18-time tennis Grand Slam champion, ended up apologizing after she criticized the policy in a UK Times story titled, “The rules on trans athletes reward cheats and punish the innocent.” Media hysterics led her to walk back the “cheats” label, but she remains adamant that women should not have to compete against biological men.
“All I am trying to do is to make sure girls and women who were born female are competing on as level a playing field as possible within their sport,” she wrote in a follow up blog post. Other female professional athletes agree.
Sharron Davies, a former professional swimmer who competed in 11 Olympic games, told the Caller women deserve the same right as men to a fair competition. “I believe very strongly that female athletes deserve the same opportunity as male athletes do to win medals, to get scholarships, to compete for their country, to get the profile that means they can go and earn a career,” she said. “We could be talking five, six, seven, eight years.”
She’s worried the inclusion of biological males will eventually ruin women’s sports, and says the issue has driven her to embrace feminism. “What inspiration is there for young girls who dream of being Olympic champions or world champions, if they can’t win their own medals because biologically they can’t compete?” she said. “Female rights are being eroded in every direction at the moment, and we seem to be going to a very dark phase where biological women don’t seem to be getting a fair deal.”
Soule is seeing this happen first hand — some of her friends are choosing to focus on track and field events the biological boys aren’t competing in, but for her that’s not an option. “None of my events are safe,” she told the Caller, adding, “It only takes five mediocre boys to compete in track and field and there will be no girl winning a single event.”
Davies competed against East German women at the Olympics who were being fed testosterone because the Germans had figured out it would give them a distinct competitive advantage. The level of testosterone and its impact on an athlete’s ability to compete varies from person to person — advocates for transgender athletes have seized on this point — but as Davies noted, the biological advantages men have over women go well beyond testosterone levels. (RELATED: Pediatric Endocrinologist Blasts ‘Poor Science’ Behind Child Transgender Therapy)
“Reducing testosterone for one year is not going to get rid of all the residual benefits that you would have had over many years of having testosterone or having gone through male puberty,” Davies said, ticking off a list similar to that of USA Powerlifting that included bone density, different bone structure and higher lung capacity. “People have got to talk facts and statistics about this. It’s not fair just to use feelings.”
Like Navratilova, she has been labeled transphobic, a label she rejects and attributes to an unwillingness from people on the other side of the debate to have a fact-based discussion. “It’s a way of closing other people down,” she told the Caller. “These words get bandied around — transphobic, bigot, anything they want to throw about — to try and stop an argument, to try and stop a debate, to try and stop you coming out using facts and science.”
Some radical feminists are also in the crosshairs of transgender advocates because they agree that it’s unfair for biological men to compete with women, and are similarly worried about the future of women’s sports — an institution they point out is the result of a lot of hard work by feminists. Women’s Liberation Front, a self-proclaimed radical feminist group that believes gender is a social construct designed to oppress women, has been excoriated for its views by liberals who say they are not true feminists.
“Gender is a hierarchical caste system that organizes male supremacy. Gender cannot be reformed — it must be abolished,” a belief statement on their website reads. They are vehemently opposed to biological men competing in women’s sports, because they say it hurts women and threatens women’s sports, and they’re willing to work with conservatives to oppose the policy.
“Women and girls fought hard for sex-segregated sports in schools and universities and professionally,” WoLF co-chair Kara Dansky told the Caller. She was one of the WoLF members who participated in a forum hosted by the Heritage Foundation to discuss the consequences of a Democrat-sponsored bill that would require schools to allow transgender athletes to compete with women. Another member of the group has gone on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to discuss the bill.
To them, the matter is clear cut.
“Humans are sexually dimorphic mammals. That’s just a fact,” Dansky told the Caller. “That’s not a liberal position, that’s not a conservative position. It’s not even a political position.” And liberals are selling out the interests of women, she said. “We are devoted to the complete liberation of women and girls from patriarchy, and anything that is not doing that is not feminism.”
Twitter has banned two users in recent weeks for stating basic facts about transgender people. Ray Blanchard, a Ph.D. psychologist and adjunct professor at the University of Toronto who researches gender identities and sexual orientation, was temporarily locked out of his account because he tweeted that transgenderism is a mental disorder — a statement backed by the American Psychiatric Association. Twitter apologized after reviewing the flagged tweet.
Less than a week later, Heritage Foundation media director Greg Scott was locked out of his account over a tweet on the Cooper powerlifting dispute. “He is not ‘stuck on the sidelines,'” Scott tweeted, referring to Cooper. “The whole ‘I was astonished’ act is tired and dishonest. If any competitive sport highlights the differences [between] men & women that EVERYONE KNOWS ARE REAL, it is powerlifting.”
He refused to delete the tweet, which Twitter initially said violated its rules against “hateful conduct.” More than a week later, Twitter said its team had concluded the tweet didn’t violate the rules after all and reinstated Scott’s account.
“You don’t even need a study to know that men have physical advantages over women that are impossible to overcome merely by taking a political position about it,” Scott told the Caller, adding that most of the people claiming men do not have an advantage wouldn’t pass a polygraph test. “They don’t believe it,” he said.
Blanchard said he considers the counter arguments being pushed by transgender advocates to be “specious” and pointed out a number of them are conducted and promoted by transgender athletes advancing a personal agenda.
A Deadspin post on the Cooper dispute speaks to his point. The article cites Rachel McKinnon, “an expert on athletes’ rights and professor of philosophy at the College of Charleston, and a world champion track cyclist to boot.” What the article doesn’t mention, until much later in the piece, is that McKinnon was born a man. “There is absolutely no scientific evidence at all that supports their position,” she told Deadspin, referring to the argument that biological men have an advantage over women.
Most of the counter arguments happening in the press avoid science altogether, relying instead on emotional pleas for inclusion or points that deliberately obscure the biological realities between men and women. One tactic McKinnon uses, for example, is to find overlap between men and women on a given spectrum, such as testosterone levels, and then point to that as evidence there is no clear line between men and women, and no distinct competitive advantage. (RELATED: Biological Male Is Top-Ranked NCAA Women’s Track Star)
But a couple of charts she points to in a Twitter thread to prove this point illustrates the opposite. Yes, there is some overlap because of a few outliers, but the charts show the vast majority of men have far more testosterone than the vast majority of women. The first chart is from a study on testosterone levels in athletes, and the second is from a different study on levels in men and women in general. Both undermine McKinnon’s point.
McKinnon did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Blanchard said these kinds of arguments won’t hold up once a biological man wins a women’s competition that people “actually care about” on an international stage, and he believes other countries will unabashedly game the system. “The complexion of the debate is going to change a lot,” he said. “And we’re going to be hearing from other countries that have become less crazed in their opinions. Nobody’s going to put up with this when biological males start winning all of the events.”
Regardless of the science, the issue could end up a matter of federal law. House Democrats passed the Equality Act last week, the bill that would require schools to allow transgender athletes to compete with women. They were unanimous in their support.