Two transgender high school girls in Connecticut have been winning races at track meets, and some nice straight white parents from very rich towns are up in arms about how unfair it all is.
Andraya Yearwood of Cromwell and Terry Miller of Bloomfield are really, really good at running. A few weeks ago they blew out the competition at the CIAC State Open, and that’s when the articles (here and here) about a petition spearheaded by Glastonbury parent Bianca Stanescu to change the CIAC’s rules on trans athletes started showing up everywhere.
The petition accuses the CIAC of unfairness because of their rule that allows trans athletes to compete with the gender they identify as without hormone replacement therapy. Otherwise, trans girls would have a competitive advantage, presumably because of testosterone.
Supporters of the petition point to Yearwood and Miller’s dominance as an example of why this needs to happen. Stanescu and her daughter fret that cis (non-trans) girls will miss out on victories and college scholarships because the playing field is not level.
This is nonsense. Hormones do stuff, absolutely. When I went through HRT I got a lot fatter and developed a taste for extra spicy curry. Wild! But hormones aren’t everything. Biology is messy and complicated, and the differences between what we see as male and female are much less a well-defined wall than a vast, unmarked borderland with plenty of twists, turns, and unknowns.
Here’s a story. In the 1980s, a Spanish hurdler named María José Martínez-Patiño was stripped of her records and medals and kicked from her national team because she underwent a chromosome test and it came back XY instead of XX. There was no proof that this variance gave her a competitive advantage.
And then there’s the case of Caster Semenya, a South African runner who was forced to undergo the dystopian-sounding “sex verification test” because she was suspected — suspected! — of not being female. Her crime, like Yearwood and Miller, was being too fast.
The fact is, we have no idea what’s bubbling inside us just under the skin. And hormones are just one factor in determining who is a competitive athlete and who is not.
Oh hang on, what’s that about college scholarships? Is that what this is about?
Ugh. First off, do college recruiters really work that way? Will coming in 9th instead of 8th mean that coach from the University of Fast Ladies won’t be calling after all, and you’ll be doomed to work on the peanut farm forever? Nooo!
I’m reminded of how it was back in the 1990s, when I distinctly recall a high school friend complaining bitterly that her chance at getting into an Ivy League school had been “stolen” by an Asian girl. I mean, what’s the point of being white if you can’t be mediocre and still get into an exclusive college?
It’s hard to ignore the racial element here, too. I doubt it’s a coincidence that Yearwood and Miller are black. Miller is quoted in a Hartford Courant piece, “There is a long history of excluding Black girls from sport and policing our bodies. I am a runner and I will keep running and keep fighting for my existence, my community and my rights.”
Wait, though, there’s something else. Stanescu is quoted as saying, “The genders are segregated for a reason. They might as well just say women don’t exist as a category.”
Ah, now we’re getting to it. That’s what this is really about.
Have you noticed that when people start complaining about transgender people that they’re always out to defend “women?” No men in the women’s restroom! This shelter is for real women only! You must be this female to run in this race!
Huh. Trans men, as usual, don’t seem to exist until and unless one of them dares to play on a women’s team or gets pregnant. Once again, it’s all about who gets to define womanhood. Why is that so important that we feel the need to tell high school girls that they have to undergo medical treatment before they’ll be allowed in the club?
What if we’re just allowing discrimination and bias to flourish under the banner of “fairness”?
Robin McHaelen, the executive director of Hartford-based LGBTQ advocacy group True Colors, is quoted in an in-depth piece about Yearwood saying, “There is a difference between what is right and what is fair, and people have to decide which side of the fence they want to be on.”
There it is.
Let me leave you with what Andraya Yearwood said to the Courant:
“I hope that the next generation of trans youth doesn’t have to fight the fights that I have. I hope they can be celebrated when they succeed, not demonized.
“For the next generation, I run for you!”
Thank you, Andraya. Keep running.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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