Let’s Chat About Caitlyn Jenner’s Take On Trans Girls In Sports
Spoiler alert: it’s a bad take.
CW: transphobia, transmisogyny, sexual assault
So, Caitlyn Jenner opposes trans girls participating on girls’ sports teams. If you’re thinking “hey; aren’t we talking about a trans woman who is also an Olympic gold medalist” Yes– we are, but she’s also a Republican gubernatorial hopeful, so… things are a bit complicated. Let’s break them down.
Last weekend, TMZ asked Jenner how she feels about trans girls playing on girls' sports teams (an issue that’s become a hot button among conservatives.) "It's a question of fairness," she said. "That's why I oppose biological boys who are trans competing in girls' sports in school." Now, we’ll get to debunking the “fairness” issue, but let’s make a pit stop on the way to mention that the use of the term “biological boys” to refer to trans girls is pretty mind-blowingly wrong. The best person to consult about trans sports issues would probably be a trans athlete, but Caitlyn Jenner seems to have some other priorities (AKA securing a Republican voter base.)
Schuyler Bailar was the first trans D1 NCAA men’s athlete, and he uses his Instagram (@pinkmantaray) to break down trans issues in an easy-to-understand way. Bailar said on his Instagram, “calling [trans women] biological males is not only potentially inaccurate (biological sex is not that simple) but also transphobic. If you need to differentiate trans and cis women, say that: trans and cis women. If you need to talk about folks with higher levels of testosterone, say that. If you need to talk about reproductive biology, say that.”
Now, onto the topic of “fairness.” If we’re going to prevent trans girls from playing on the girls’ team, we'd need to somehow verify that they’re trans. Bailar says, “This proposed gender verification not only systemically enforces the policing of all women’s bodies but also does so through demonizing and weaponising transness. [sic]” Yeah-- genital exams for young girls in this situation are beyond unacceptable and also not an effective way to determine transness.
Furthermore, according to Tracey Holmes and Kristen Worley for ABC news, “Women, like men, come in all shapes and sizes.” They added, “Nobody says Usain Bolt should not be able to compete against his rivals because his legs are longer than most of his rivals, just as nobody says Michael Phelps should not have been allowed to compete in swimming because his arm span was longer than anyone else's.” Furthermore, they said, “Traditionally competitive sport was developed by men for men. Women were not allowed to play. Now women can compete but many of the old divisions — such as along gender lines — remain. As society becomes better educated and better informed about the reality of the human body, sport will need to adjust the way it is administered and played. Nobody should be excluded from playing sport because of the ‘way they look.’”
As Bailar said, “Let’s think about a 6’3 cisgender woman who plays basketball. People will say ‘damn, she was made for basketball!’ Now let’s say there is a 6-foot transwoman. People often immediately say that’s unfair.”
Jenner is currently one of the most visible and well-known openly trans celebrities. She has influence over a lot of folks who may not know much about transgender issues. And, educating people matters. Bailar said on his Instagram, “A few days ago Jahaira DeAlto was the 7th trans woman of color murdered in the US this month. And yet, there are over 144 anti-trans bills in progress around the country, attacking trans people instead of protecting us.” The rules and treatment surrounding trans people is a matter of life and death, so we should all be making strides towards unity and not going backwards. We hope Caitlyn Jenner gets on board.