On Thursday, March 3, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill that prohibits transgender females from participating in sports at the high school and collegiate level. Gov. Reynolds called this a victory for the girls of Iowa, citing the physical advantages a male has over a female and stating that she is upholding the fairness of sports. Ohers are lamenting, as this is not a victory for all girls. Iowa is the 11th state to enact a ban on transgender athletes participating in sports, after similar bans in states such as Alabama, Texas and South Dakota. However, other republican states have seen vetoes to similar bills, such as in Utah and Indiana. This is not a bipartisan issue. There are deeper implications to this bill. Is this a bill to protect women, or is this a bill that allows transphobia to roam freely?
Consider swimmer Lia Thomas, the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA D1 title. She won first place in the 500-yard freestyle in 4:33.24. It’s the fastest time in the NCAA history, but not in the world. Olympian Katie Ledecky swam the same race in 4:24.06, holding the record for the 500-yard freestyle.
Thomas is the first transgender woman to win at the NCAA level – not to compete. That same day, Thomas also lost races in the 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle race. Thomas is good, but is she taking sweeping wins? No.
Is this the physical advantage Reynolds is talking about? That when comparing apples to apples, a transgender athlete and a cisgender athlete can and do perform similarly?
The NCAA has also passed strict guidelines when it comes to transgender athletes. These athletes go under a strict set of tests by medical experts to ensure there is no “physical advantage.” Testosterone suppressants must be taken for at least one year prior to the date of competition, along with documented sport-specific testosterone levels for transgender athletes. Thomas passed these guidelines, having been on testosterone suppressants for two years. She was cleared by the NCAA to compete.
Thomas does not uphold the physical advantages that Reynolds is worried about. As the NCAA has modeled with proper regulations and guidelines set in place, the physical advantages seem to be a pretentious concern used to hide transphobia.
Misinformation regarding these so-called physical advantages is what fuels transphobia. Misinformation that guides public opinion is tangibly seen in the staggering disproportionate numbers for suicides, bullying and homelessness in the LGTBQ community, specifically the youth. According to the Trevor Project, 35% of transgender youth attempted suicide in the past year, compared to the 7% of cisgender youth.
I can tell you this: no one is transitioning to hold a competitive advantage over cisgender athletes. People transition in a pursuit for normalcy within their own self, to gain an equilibrium between their souls and bodies. Who are we to stop this?
Legality and ethics. There’s a difference. Ethics are personal choice, whereas legality is for the people, in a country where the separation of church and state exists. Religion may inform ethics, but these ethics are not universal truths. In the melting pot that America is, upholding the distinction between legality and ethics is fair, and this distinction is at stake.
Is this a victory, Reynolds, the constant oppression of Iowans youth who don’t fit your small and confined box of what we should look like? Is this a victory, Reynolds, the disproportionate numbers of suicides we see in LGBTQ youth due to bills like this one? Is this a victory, Reynolds, the reality that transgender athletes can’t have fun, compete and simply exist as their cisgender peers do?
I don’t think so. This isn’t a victory; this is transphobia. Protect women – all women.