Is Gov. Noem right 'only girls should play girls' sports'?
- Kristi Noem has served as South Dakota’s first female governor since her election in 2018. From 2011-2018, she served in the Congressional House of Representatives.
- On March 19, 2021, Gov. Noem faced backlash from fellow Republicans for not signing House Bill 1217, citing concerns of legal legitimacy and losing NAACP-sanctioned sporting events.
- On March 29, Gov. Noem tweeted a short thread, starting with the statement “Only girls should play girls’ sports,” announcing and linking to the two executive orders she signed (regarding K-12 and collegiate sports).
- As of March 30, three states have adopted bills to “preserve women’s sports:” Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. State responses came on the heels of President Biden’s January 20 executive order declaring, “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”
- A March 2021 Morning Consult and Politico National Tracking poll reports 53% of respondents support banning transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports.
- A 2020 Gallup Poll reports 5.6% of US adults identify as LGBTQ. Among LBGTQ adults, 11.3% are transgender. Among all US adults, only 0.6% are transgender.
The issue here is not precisely with the content of the phrase 'only girls should play girls' sports,' but its intention. Governor Kristi Noem wishes to imply that trans girls are not girls. As Erica Vanstone writes in Fanpost, this causes them 'to engage in exhausting emotional and physical trials around what their bodies should and should not be able to do.' Sen. Reynold Nesiba points out that policies based on these kinds of misconceptions are 'not providing the supporting and accepting environment that trans people need in the state of South Dakota.'
This attack on the validity of transgender individuals seems to be based on the mistaken idea that there is room for debate on the core issue as if no scientific consensus exists. In an article for Scientific American, Jack Turban explains that 'there is no scientific case for excluding' trans girls from girls' teams. He notes that the concept of transgender girls or women having some kind of advantage 'comes from the idea that testosterone causes physical changes such as an increase in muscle mass,' emphasizing that 'transgender girls are not the only girls with high testosterone levels.' Turban further explains that trans girls taking puberty blockers 'have negligible testosterone levels,' but laws or rules such as this 'would force them to play with the boys.' This issue ultimately comes down to the fact that all humans are different, regardless of gender, and transgender people should not be singled out in this way.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem's assertion that 'women should play women sports,' while worded a bit abrasively, is true. Women partaking in men's sports or vice-versa would create a great imbalance in the sport's world.
The average NCAA men's basketball player is 10 inches taller and jumps nearly a whole foot higher than the average NCAA women's basketball player. In track and field, the average male NCAA 100m sprinter scores in the 10.5s range. On the other hand, the average women sprinter averages around 11.8s. If a transitioning female (a transgender boy or man) crossed over to the male division, they would not match their counterparts' times. But when the opposite happens, and a transitioning male (a transgender girl or woman) crosses over to the female division, they most often dominate all records.
In sports like UFC, women fighters have expressed serious concern and discomfort with the concept of fighting newly transitioned women. Men are born with certain physical qualities that would benefit one in a contact sport like fighting. The family of three high school track runners in Connecticut filed a federal lawsuit due to transgender females Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood completely dominating the sport and eliminating the records of athletes that were previously being considered for scholarships.
Men generally have more muscle mass and bone density, which benefits those competing in athletic activities. While these athletes may be on hormone suppressors, that has no impact on lessening the strength developed over the years, which has elevated their testosterone level. While transgender women deserve equality in all social aspects, the discussion needs to continue about monitoring goals of 'inclusion' that might disadvantage women and girls in sports.
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