To the Editor:
I am writing in response to Professor Angie Kirk’s recent op-ed advocating for the exclusion of trans women from school sports. As a chromosome biologist and feminist, I strongly support grounding policy on sex and gender in reality, not fantasy. It is for that reason I am deeply disturbed by Kirk’s piece, which uses a scientifically unsound argument to legitimize legal discrimination under the euphemistic slogan of fairness for women.
“Biological reality" is messy, and not every person belongs in a blue or a pink box. As aptly described by IHE’s own recent reporting, hormone therapy frequently renders transgender people athletically comparable to their cisgender peers, and intersex persons, who develop on the spectrum between the abstractions of male and female, are common (~1 percent of the population) (see here and here). To let as many students as possible participate in our historically binary, sex-segregated system requires standards that are nuanced and respectful, not procrustean and exclusionary.
If her piece were truly about fairness in women’s sports, Kirk would have been most outraged about the case of Mack Beggs. A trans high schooler and wrestler taking testosterone in accordance with his male gender identity, Beggs wanted to compete with boys. Yet by the state law of Texas—exactly the sort of law Kirk calls for—he could wrestle girls or not at all, and went on to win two championships as a teenage boy forced into the girls’ division.
This piece sweeps aside the realities of human variation and gender transition to demonize trans women and erase trans men: essentially, Men are from Mars and strong, women are from Venus and weak, trans women are men and are either deluded or lying for gold medals. It is no surprise that Kirk’s primary source is the Alliance Defending Freedom, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as a hate group for its dehumanizing attacks on LGBTQ+ Americans’ legal rights, including claims that gays and lesbians are sexual predators unfit to teach. This is just another such attack shrouded in the apparently benign claim of “fairness.”
Selecting an op-ed for publication is tacit approval and legitimation. Just as you would not publish a viewpoint insisting on a racial basis for IQ, a pseudoscientific argument that trans persons are deceitful aggressors and categorically unfit to fully participate in society is an insult to the ideals of civil discourse.
--Lexy von Diezmann
Center for Cell and Genome Science
University of Utah