In The 74 I write today about the debate over transgender athletes and sports. As a practical matter, the place this is landing is competitive high school sports. Colleges and the Olympics have policies, although they’re a poor fit for high school sports, and it’s not really an issue with younger kids. Right now, the debate is not especially productive, because multiple things are true at once and it’s playing out like most culture war debates do, and not in a way that’s good for transgender kids. As the piece notes, I don’t have a clear policy solution or answer, but I argue that we have to be able to do better than what’s going now:
It’s a confused conversation and the public is split. Sure, there is bigotry — any debate about including transgender students in sports that turns on how God created humans is not really about sports at all. And yes, it would be nice if everyone suddenly concerned about women’s sports showed up for the routine athletic slights and second-class status girls and women endure all the time.
Proponents of banning transgender students from sports overstate the prevalence of transgender athletes today. Opponents, meanwhile, at once cheered the Biden administration’s decision to withdraw from an actual pending federal court case brought by four female track athletes in Connecticut while chirping on social media that there is no issue here at all. For both sides it’s a proxy fight about inclusion for transgender people in American life, which is by extension part of a larger culture war. As a result there is more heat than light and what both sides have in common is some indifference to any specifics.
Yet the specifics matter. In practice, there are real complexities here that will land on the doorstep of high schools: the level of youth sports where this is really a substantial public policy issue.