In response to “We must save women’s sports for women” (Aug. 21): As a feminist, advocate and former college volleyball player, I believe we “save women’s sports” by being inclusive and empowering women from all different backgrounds, races and cultures. That includes trans women.

For decades, lawmakers across the country have pushed legislation restricting trans people from public spaces. This is also not new to the sports world.

Just four years ago, the North Carolina Legislature enacted an anti-LGBT law requiring trans people to use the bathroom of the sex identified on their birth certificate. In turn, the NCAA relocated seven 2016-2017 championships out of North Carolina.

Just this past March, the Idaho Legislature enacted two laws limiting the rights of transgender people. One banned transgender girl athletes from playing on girls’ and women’s sports teams. As with North Carolina, prominent women athletes like Billie Jean King, Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird are calling on the NCAA to bar Idaho from hosting NCAA-sponsored events while limiting transgender sports participation.

Similar harmful rhetoric in the Aug. 21 opinion piece calls for the exclusion of trans athletes from women’s sports in order to “save” them. Like the author, many who oppose the inclusion of trans women athletes claim that allowing trans athletes to compete with cisgender women will hurt cisgender women and their ability to win in their sport as they’re competing against someone more “masculine” or with “genetic advantages.” Not only does this myth reinforce stereotypes that so many women athletes are forced to combat every day, but it is simply false.

Like any other athlete, we all differ in strength, height, ability, yet we train endless hours to be the very best. This is just an excuse to exclude trans people from yet another public space.

I must note that I agree with the author when she says, “I have seen that excelling in sport can do wonders for a woman’s confidence.” It is true. Without sports, I would not have developed the work ethic, leadership skills and confidence I have today. However, trans women don’t have that luxury. Many trans women and girls face discrimination and violence in their school systems, resulting in them dropping out. If they do stay in school, they are oftentimes harassed and bullied leading to many mental health concerns. This in no way is an advantage to trans athletes. Instead of encouraging this treatment of trans students, sports can be an inclusive outlet that pushes them to grow and challenge themselves in a safe space.

Throughout history, sports have been discriminatory, whether it was the exclusion of women, Black and brown people, the disabled or LGBTQ+ athletes. We now have an opportunity to learn from history and the mistakes we’ve made. Trans people belong in sports, and excluding trans athletes will harm us all.

Trans people belong in sports, now and forever.

 

Bailey Koch lives in Litchfield.