Recently, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill that prohibits transgender females from participating in girls’ high school and college sports. That is, transgender athletes (athletes that are male at birth but who identify as female) are not allowed to play on girls’ sports teams.
This bill, the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, will make it mandatory for those competing in girls’ and women’s sports at the K-12 and college levels to be biologically eligible. In cases where their gender is challenged, they would have to provide confirmation from a health care provider that they are female. That could include a doctor examining their genitals, or proof of being female through a genetics test or hormone test.
Proponents of the bill stress that it is not in place to limit transgender athletes from playing a sport, but is only to require that athletes play a sport based on their biological gender. They note that in general, males are genetically faster and stronger than females and this enables them to outperform female athletes in sports. After puberty, males produce large amounts of testosterone which is correlated with muscle mass and strength. Specifically, males have more overall muscle mass and less body fat than females. They develop larger skeletal muscles, larger lungs, and a greater number of red blood cells which provide greater oxygen absorption. For these reasons, they are able to perform better in sports, and many people, including female athletes themselves, citing that it is unfair for young women to compete with teammates that are naturally stronger and faster.
The Florida House Representative Kaylee Tuck puts this into perspective: “Allyson Felix is the fastest woman in the world… but yet the personal best in the 400 meters can be beaten by hundreds of high school boys.” “If we allow biological males to compete in athletic events against biological females, we may never see another Allyson Felix again.” Tuck, being the sponsor of the bill, emphasizes that the law is not anti-transgender. It merely recognizes the biological differences between men and women and is in place to support females in sports. Supporters of the bill also hope to protect female athletes with regard to athletic scholarship opportunities. If women were to compete with transgender females who are stronger and faster, it would diminish their chances of getting a scholarship. An anonymous RHS Junior student also states that “I’m fully in favor of transgender women practicing for athletic competitions with biologically born women. However, transgender women have an unfair advantage because they are, a majority of the time, stronger. Those who are born as women should be able to compete in athletic events without worrying that they will have competition that has an advantage they cannot practice for.”
Opponents of the bill believe that it is discriminatory and sends a message that transgender athletes are unimportant. They note that some high school and college teams require transgender athletes to undergo a year of hormone therapy and provide documentation showing consistent female identity before being allowed to play on a school sports team. Former Florida House candidate Elijah Manley, who identifies as nonbinary, had traveled to Tallahassee to protest the bill when it was in committee hearings. “This bill is harmful. It will directly impair the ability of trans youth to participate in sports. This only adds to the stigma that trans youth face, and it’s unnecessary.”
More than 500 college athletes signed an open letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert in March to express their opposition to such legislation. The letter demanded that the association stop holding championships in states that have passed or are considering passing similar laws. Despite the opposition, other states such as Idaho, Arkansas, and Tennessee have already signed similar bills, and more than 25 other states including Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey have introduced similar measures.
Sports & Wellness Columnist
Photo: Richmond Times-Dispatch