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June 3 2019

Girls' Track and the Unlevel Playing Field

by Hadley Heath

Like a lot of people, I was a high school athlete. I ran track, specifically the 800 meter (1/2 mile), 1600 meter (1 mile), the 3200 meter (2 mile) and several relays. I was a mediocre runner, but I enjoyed being part of my high school's team, which was strong.

When I was a student, more than 10 years ago, there wasn't much talk about transgender student athletes. But today, this is one of the biggest issues in sports, at the high school level and beyond.

Although high school athletes are young and unpaid, this is one of the most high-stakes levels of athletic competition: It's where the mediocre participants, like me, get separated from the truly elite competitors who go on to earn college sports scholarships and even ultimately compete professionally or at the Olympic level. That's why it's critical that high school sports be governed by consistent, fair rules. 

In this latest Daily Signal video by IWF Fellow Kelsey Bolar, Connecticut high school girls recount how competing against transgender girls (biological males) has harmed them and introduced unfairness to their sport. As the video explains, this issue isn't specific to track, and could pose even more complicated questions in contact sports, where safety can be an issue. Kelsey also discussed this topic with IWF on our podcast here

Although my track days are long behind me, I remember running with male athetes in the 3200 race at rural track meets, where often the boys and girls ran together -- but not in competition -- simply to share the track and save time. Sometimes I was the only girl to enter this race, which is not a sprint, but requires 8 laps around a 400-meter standard high school track. I remember getting lapped by the boys. Even so, I still placed (first, if I was the only girl runner!) and added points to my team's total for the meet. 

For me, it was fun to be part of a team. It was good exercise. But for the athletes Kelsey interviewed in her video, their sport is not just a hobby. It's their passion. It's their gift! And they deserve to race on a "level playing field" against athletes who are biologically the same sex.

Today, we are witnessing ever-increasing acceptance of people who are LGBTQ. This is a good trend; of course no one should be bullied or made to feel inferior. High school is hard enough for anyone, and it's often the time when students are trying to navigate their own questions about sex, gender, relationships, and many other complex topics. 

But gender identity should not be the deciding factor for sports, which are physical in nature. The physical, biological sex of participants should be the rule here. This is common sense. But saying so can be hard today, given the political environment. I'm sure the girls in this video feared retaliation from those who might tar them as transphobic. This topic is the "emperor's new clothes" issue of our generation.

As far as transgender athletes, they should compete against others who are the same biological sex unless or until some other accommodation can be made for them. But allowing transgender student athletes to compete against the opposite sex is unfair, and girls, like those in this video, will be the biggest losers

We have to stand up for them, and we salute them for standing up for themselves.





Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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