Transgender athletes and their ability to compete

Certain controversy has developed in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond as there appears to be more and more transgender athletes coming out and performing very well in their respected sports. Athletes like Lia Thomas are under fire because many people believe that transgender females should not be able to compete against biological females. Thomas swims competitively for the University of Pennsylvania and has caught the public eye as she continues to shatter NCAA swimming records. Some states are taking action against athletes like Thomas.

There are now twelve U.S. states that have certain bans on transgender athletes from participating in sports based on their gender identity. Several other states have not legislated these bills but are in the hunt for finalizing them. The twelve states, which are traditionally conservative, include: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.

Here is where the controversy comes from. Lia Thomas swam competitively for the University of Pennsylvania men’s team back in 2019. Thomas at that time was a decent swimmer but nothing out of the ordinary. The controversy begins when Thomas transitions into a female and begins to smash NCAA women’s swimming records. She stands out as a powerful swimmer and tears down her competition. 

Although many people were rallying behind her and congratulating her on her victories, others felt as if the other women on the team were being cheated. ¨We respect her right to live as a woman and her right to do whatever she feels is best for herself in her life,¨ said one Penn parent who chose to remain anonymous. “But at the same time, that shouldn’t mean competing against biological women and having full access to the locker room.

The opposition´s main point is that transgender females have an unfair advantage over the biological females in their respective sports. Those who oppose transgender females competing in competitive leagues like the NCAA or the Olympics assert that athletes like Lia Thomas possess certain biological characteristics that biologically born females do not. An Alabama law passed by governor Kay Ivey states that high school athletes participation should be determined by the gender indicated in their birth certificate. 

Although Senator Ivey did not elaborate on the bill, supporters of the bill feel good about it. ¨I want to thank Governor Ivey for her leadership and for protecting the rights of Alabama’s female athletes,¨ they said. It is obvious that these supporters feel strongly about protecting biological women’s rights. 

The other side argues that transgender females are females and should not be discriminated against and should be allowed to compete based on their gender identification. California, contrary to the conservative states, implemented a law that fully allows transgender athletes as a whole, to participate in the sports they wish. 

CIF, the California Interscholastic Federation states, ¨All students should have the opportunity to participate in CIF activities in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on a student’s records.¨ California takes a more liberal approach as they assure that athletes are to participate in a matter which makes them feel comfortable; despite any controversy that comes along with that. 

The future of transgender athletes is in the hands of legislation. Some states want to prevent transgender athletes from taking part in sports that do not line up with their biological sex. While other states want to further protect transgender rights and allow them to participate in whatever sport their gender identity lines up with. 

The question becomes; is it fair for athletes like Lia Thomas to participate in sports based on their gender identities or should there be limitations against them? 

So what are my thoughts? Well, the simple answer is that there is no simple solution. I think that everyone has the right to compete in sports. It is nonsensical to deny anyone of that right; however, I can see both sides; it is also true that transgender females have certain biological advantages that biological females might not. This can include: height advantages, lung capacity, bone density, and overall strength. That being said, such disparities also exist in sports that are gender-specific, so unless we’re going to start banning athletes because some are better than others (which has always been the case), just let them compete.