Welfare reform partially succeeded in the 1990s when legislators stopped haranguing about “welfare queens” gaming the system and started showing how governmental payments harmed the poor. We need a similar change in the transgenderism debate. Bathroom criminals are a problem, but we should emphasize a larger set of potential victims: transgender humans themselves, and women athletes who will suffer unintended consequences.
While ideologues theorize, superficial sex changes usually don’t solve
deeper problems. Trendy magazines celebrate trans kids, but those temporary
mascots have to live with their decisions for decades—and studies show the
frequency of regret. Now, let’s think through another issue that hasn’t gotten
much attention outside some sports pages: A small percentage of women are
hyperandrogenic, which means they have testosterone levels like men’s.
Last year hyperandrogenic athletes Caster Semenya of South Africa, who won
the Olympic women’s 800-meter gold medal, and Dutee Chand, India’s star female
runner, made headlines. Women with lots of testosterone are, like men, stronger
and faster than similarly athletic women without that advantage. Providence
Portland Medical Center expert Joanna Harper says the average difference
between men’s and women’s world records is 12 percent, and the best marathon
time ever for a woman would put her just outside the top 5,000 men’s times.
We should emphasize a larger set of potential victims: transgender humans
themselves, and women athletes who will suffer unintended consequences.
Harper, born male and now transgender, told The Science of Sport
that as many as five hyperandrogenic athletes may have made the eight-person
final in the Olympic race that Semenya won. Harper favors protecting “female
athletes from those athletes who undergo male-type puberty. … Billions of
potential female athletes deserve the right to compete with some semblance of a
level playing field. … Requiring all women to compete within a given
testosterone range is the best way we currently have to create such a playing
Harper also spoke of a condition, 5-alpha reductase deficiency (5-ARD), that
is rare worldwide except in isolated, inbred pockets. Given the globalization
of sport, Harper’s dystopian concern is that if high-testosterone women
continue to compete against other women, “those interested in developing the
next generation of women’s sports stars will look to these areas to find girls
with 5-ARD, and aid in their athletic progress. This would be an extremely bad
scenario for the rest of the women in the world who care about sporting
Harper admits that discriminating against very-high-testosterone women is
hard and in one sense unfair—they did not do anything to gain such an
advantage—but sees no other way to maintain fair competition for the other 99
or so percent of women. And now we come to a dystopian situation: What about
young men who choose the transgender route and then compete with young women
not in fun local events (like coed softball) but on big stages?
This is not hypothetical. Weightlifter Gavin Hubbard, former head of Olympic
Weightlifting New Zealand, is now Laurel Hubbard, winner last month of a major
women’s weightlifting competition. Some women lifters said Hubbard should not
be allowed in their event, but their pleas did not avail within the current
trans trend. In Alaska last year, biologically male Nattaphon Wangyot finished
third in the 200-meter dash of that state’s high-school female track and field
championship. The College Fix website captured the current mood: It reported
the justified concern of Saskia Harrison, a female runner who just missed the
cut, under a “Don’t question it, bigots” headline.
What to do? Genesis says, “God created man in his own image … male and
female he created them.” We are sexually binary, but ever since one day in Eden
mutations happen and life sometimes doesn’t seem fair. We should protect the
few in a way that does not harm the many.
We cannot successfully do that in knee-jerk ways. The Texas supervisory
board for high-school athletics arrived at what it thought was a simple,
conservative solution: Athletes compete in their birth gender. But in February,
biologically female Mack Beggs won the girls wrestling state title after a 58-0
season. Beggs, who has declared herself a boy, has been taking testosterone for
two years. Some female wrestlers forfeited their matches with Beggs out of
safety concerns. Now the policy needs amending.
by Marvin Olasky is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion.