Transphobes, like any other kind of bigot, do not like to admit that they’re bigoted. So instead they will argue against equal rights for a group by hiding behind other issues.
The same pattern happens with almost every marginalized group. The bigot won’t say a group should not have equality, but will instead use a separate but related issue as a mask. “I am not homophobic,” the homophobe says, “I just don’t want children to be exposed to that lifestyle.” “I’m not racist,” says the racist, “I just think that Black Lives Matter has gone too far.” “I don’t hate poor people,” says the republican, “I just worry that welfare discourages hard work.” In every case acting on these beliefs will have the impact of negatively impacting the lives of the marginalized group, and increasing hostility towards them.
Trans people have had their humanity argued against using plenty of these mask issues. Transphobes like to claim that using someone’s correct pronouns is a free speech issue. There’s the classic “think of the children.” But perhaps the one that is the easiest to see through is the issue of women’s sports.
As in most discussions of trans people, the speakers totally ignore trans men when it comes to this issue.
The transphobes say that they are not transphobic, they just want to protect women’s sports. The idea they put forward is that cisgender women and girls will have such a disadvantage compared to trans women and girls that women’s sports will cease to exist. There are of course problems with this idea. For one, only 0.58 percent of people in the U.S identify as transgender according to data from 2016. Of this tiny portion, an even smaller portion will be into sports. But even if trans people were more common, accepting trans women as women would mean that their achievements would simply be counted as women’s sporting achievements. As for advantage, unfairness due to physical attributes is par for the course in sports.
It’s clear that the cry of “protect women’s sports” is a ruse not just because trans people are not really a threat to them, but also because the people who claim they are don’t actually do anything but be transphobic when it comes to women’s sports.
There is a real problem of inequality in women’s sports.
Just this week, the NCAA had to give female players a weight room. This followed public outcry after a player showed that the male players had a weight room worthy of professional sports, whereas the female players had a single small rack of lightweights in the corner. Interestingly, the “protect women’s sports from trans people” crowd had very little to say about the blatant discrimination. Oftentimes, before they started talking about trans folks, these people have never spoken about women’s sports before. Not pay inequity, pregnancy discrimination, or sexist reporting.
It is also worth noting that women keep ending up as collateral damage in their attempts to protect women’s sports. Caster Semenya is the most high-profile example of this. Semenya is not trans, she is a cisgender woman who naturally has higher than average testosterone. The case against her, however, was deeply rooted in transphobia. It is the logical extension of the argument that trans women have a natural advantage. In order to protect women’s sports, it was argued that the definition of acceptable womanhood needed to exclude her. That she would have to chemically alter her body (something transphobes claim to hate) or be kicked out of her sport altogether as punishment for something she has no control over. One can only imagine how grateful she must have felt for the “protection.”
Legislation to “protect women’s sports” seems to have the same problem.
According to its 11 Republican sponsors, the purpose of HB 1251 is to promote “fairness in sports.” The bill bars trans athletes from participating in girls’ sports teams. But in order to enforce this, it requires that “any female athlete whose gender was called into question would need to ‘prove’ their sex via an analysis of their chromosomes, medical testing of their testosterone levels, and an examination of their external genitalia.” So in order to protect girls’ sports, these legislators put up an extra barrier to girls playing sports that does not exist for boys sports; one that would require children both trans and cis to be sexually violated if an adult decides they’re not feminine enough.
Tulsi Gabbard wants to protect women’s sports by cutting their funding. Her Protect Women’s Sports Act of 2020 “makes it a violation of federal law for a recipient of federal funds who operates, sponsors, or facilitates athletic programs or activities to permit a person whose biological sex at birth is male to participate in an athletic program or activity that is designated for women or girls.” The bill would literally destroy sports programs for women and girls just to make sure trans people can’t participate.
The point has always been cruelty.
Transgender people are a popular target for hatred, mockery and cruelty right now. In part because they had the audacity to become more visible. Trans people are in real danger in the current climate. It is so important to see through the deception and stamp out transphobia wherever it rises its head. Cisgender women have nothing to gain from the pain of transgender women. The transphobes who claim they do always show themselves to not care one bit for either of us.