Several readers have emailed me asking me to write about the “issue” of transgender student athletes.

I’m not sure why. I’m not transgender. I’m not an athlete. (I was a terrible student athlete in high school. I never won a single race, and I came in dead last plenty of times.)

Here’s the thing: I have friends and loved ones who are transgender. They are not an “issue.” Their lives aren’t an intellectual debate for me. They are real people, human beings, and I worry about their safety and happiness every day. Transgender women are women. Transgender men are men. Other people’s gender is none of your business. But since there is clearly no bigger problem in the world today: Let’s talk about transgender student athletes.

First of all, some numbers, if you are worried about transgender athletes destroying sports as we know them. The NCAA has about 200,000 athletes competing in women’s sports. Fifty are transgender. Transgender people make up about 2 percent of the general population. Even if the entire transgender community were organizing and plotting to destroy women’s sports (which, to be clear, they are not: Lots of trans people have no interest in athletics, just like cisgender people!), they simply don’t have the numbers to do that.

Transgender women have been allowed to openly compete in women’s Olympic sports since 2004. Do you know how many transgender female athletes have competed in the Olympics, and how many of them won medals?

Trick question. The answer to both is zero. Zero openly transgender women have qualified for the Olympics. Also, middle school soccer is not the Olympics.

Have you ever seen a toddler fall down and then look at their parents for their reaction before deciding whether or not to burst into tears? It’s a fascinating phenomenon, that young children trust adults’ perception of the world even more than their own. My brain keeps going back to the phenomenon of children looking to grown-ups to tell them how to react to the world.

In the middle of the confused cultural frenzy, it can be easy to forget that transgender children are, first and foremost, children. High school athletes are between the ages of 13 and 18. Do you know what will happen if we start telling kids that some of their friends aren’t real girls, or aren’t real boys? Do you know what happens to children who are marked “different” from their peers, who stick out from the pack?

Ask any kid who was bullied in school. Heck, ask me. I was bullied. I was teased for having short hair, and wearing boys’ clothes, and wearing secondhand clothes (to say nothing of the secondhand boys’ clothes!) I don’t blame the kids in middle school who called me names that this paper’s editorial standards won’t allow in print. I blame their parents, for raising them to think that was an OK way to treat me. Maybe transgender people make you uncomfortable. Maybe you have a particularly narrow view of gender. That doesn’t mean you should condemn children and teenagers to ostracization, depression and suicide.

There is a bill right now in the Maine Legislature that would ban “biological males” from participating in sports meant only for “females,” from kindergarten up to college. What happens if a student is “determined” (no mention of how) to not be female? A physician would have to examine their genitals in order to sign off on their gender!

L.D. 926, introduced by Republican Berwick state Rep. Beth O’Connor – who apparently doesn’t have anything better to do – would subject children as young as elementary school to unnecessary genital examinations in order to determine their eligibility to play in school sports. I am of the opinion that no child should have to undergo an “examination” of their “internal and external reproductive anatomy” for any reason other than serious medical necessity. And I say this as a girl who had to have a medically necessary genital examination in elementary school, in the aftermath of an unfortunate playground accident. Before, during and after the exam, the only goal my parents and my doctor had was to spare me as much psychological trauma as possible. I would like to know why Rep. O’Connor and her L.D. 926 co-sponsors take the trauma of children so lightly.

I also don’t know why anyone who considers themselves a real conservative wants the government in charge of determining what makes a man and what makes a woman. I am a woman because I say so. Nobody has any business telling me that I am being a woman the right way or the wrong way; and nobody but me, my doctor and my sexual partners have any business worrying about what’s between my legs.

Can’t you just let people live their lives and their genders in peace? Or would you rather risk your granddaughter having to undergo an examination of her reproductive anatomy just to be allowed on the basketball team?

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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