Those opposed to transgender women participating in women’s sports are primarily concerned about high school athletes. They are much less concerned about trans women playing women’s sports at the college, Olympic, or professional levels. Their concern is high school transgender girls will win every competition with cisgender girls and deny them college scholarships.

A vocal opponent of transgender women in sports is Dr. Emma Hilton, a prize-winning developmental biologist and research associate specializing in cellular and developmental systems at the University of Manchester, England. During a Woman’s Place UK Conference speech, Dr. Hilton said, “Males can run faster, jump longer, throw further, and lift heavier than females. They outperform females by 10% on the running track to 30% when throwing various balls.”

Dr. Hilton was referring to cisgender males who have gone through male puberty, not transwomen who are on hormone therapy. The scientific data shows that hormone therapy will mitigate, but not eliminate, many physical advantages that trans women who have gone through male puberty have acquired. Even three years into transition, trans women retain significantly larger muscle areas than cisgender females. These statements are undeniably factual.

However, research by Dr. Joanna Harper, a leading researcher in hormones and transgender athletes at Loughborough University, London, England, shows there aren’t enough trans girls playing women’s sports to dominate the field, nor are cisgender women denied scholarships because they lost a competition with a transgender woman.

Approximately 300,000 high school-aged boys and girls nationwide from ages 13-17 identify as transgender. The number of trans girls who want to compete in girls’ sports is even less. Joanna Harper estimates that “while we don’t know the exact number of trans women competing in NCAA sports, I would be shocked if there were more than 100 of them in the women’s category … the number dwindles even further when it comes to middle school and high school athletes.”

Gillian Branstetter, an ACLU spokesperson, said even Save Women’s Sports, an organization advocating for banning all transgender athletes from competing in girls’ sports, could identify only five transgender athletes nationwide who were competing on girls’ teams in school sports for grades K-12.

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Cisgendered athletic women are very unlikely to be denied a college scholarship because they lost a competition to a trans woman. Colleges do not grant athletic scholarships based on performance alone. College sports are very competitive, but so are college academics. Universities are more concerned with an athlete’s overall performance and academic accomplishments than performance times.

Colleges look at athletes with good performance and academics nationwide as potential scholarship candidates. Your academic and athletic standing in the group that includes all other college-bound senior girls from across the nation is what is important. Winning or losing a competition against a trans female athlete is not the only factor colleges consider when granting scholarships.

So, given that trans women do not dominate women’s sports nor prevent cisgender women from getting a scholarship, why is there a national movement to deny a negligible number of transwomen their right to play in women’s sports?

Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, and many women lost their right to an abortion, Christian nationalists have been concerned that without a national crisis, their base might relax and not vote in droves. To keep their base agitated, Christian nationalists invented a new bogeyman: transgender female athletes. It seems Christian nationalist politicians are not concerned about the advantages transmen have in gymnastics due to their smaller bodies.

Since many Christian nationalist politicians campaign to “protect women’s sports” but are not asking for more financial support, their motivation is painfully apparent: the promotion of anti-LGBT laws. These are the same politicians who opposed letting people marry whom they love by claiming allowing same-sex marriage would destroy America as we know it. Now the opponents argue allowing transwomen to compete against cisgender women will end women’s sports as we know it. We’ve seen these fear tactics used to exclude trans women from the women’s restroom by claiming trans women will assault cisgender women.

As the ACLU says, “One thing is clear: The politicians who introduce these anti-trans bills are not concerned with the integrity of girls’ athletics any more than proponents of bathroom bans are concerned about preventing gender-based violence. We must see these efforts for what they are: fearmongering intended to push transgender and nonbinary people out of public spaces.”

“The folks pushing these anti-trans bills (don’t) believe transgender people exist,” said Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director at the Human Rights Campaign. “They think they’re faking it for an advantage in sports.”


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