The Daily Gamecock

Column: SC's anti-trans athletes bill is bad for students, based in bigotry

FILE— Exterior of the SC Statehouse on Jan 12, 2022.
FILE— Exterior of the SC Statehouse on Jan 12, 2022.

The South Carolina House of Representative's vote to ban transgender athletes from participating in their gender's sport proves that representatives care less about representation and more about mandating bigotry.

The bill mandates athletes participate in sports based on their sex assigned at birth, despite S.C. only having two trans student athletes at the moment, according to Rep. John King (D-York). 

The bill aims to ban future generations from participating in their gender's sport based off of mixed evidence on transgender athletes' supposed advantages against their cisgender co-competitors.

Studies investigating if trans athletes have advantages against cisg athletes involve many questions, with conflicting answers. A British Journal of Sports Medicine study found that trans athletes possess an "athletic edge" after hormone therapy. That athletic edge is a 9% faster running speed one year after hormone therapy.

However, suggesting that trans athletes have an unfair advantage in competitions ignores studies published by multiple sources, including the Independent, which showed that data suggests Thomas did not have an unfair advantage in her competitions.

However, the debate in the house was unconcerned with running, instead it focused around a swimmer.

Much of the debate centered around Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer for the University of Pennsylvania. Thomas won one of the three events she competed in against other women in this year's NCAA championship. 

Though Thomas’ competitors left her in the dust in most of the events she participated in, she is still the subject of vitriol for her supposed domination. 

Cezar McKnight (D-Kingstree), one of the bill's authors and a lawyer practicing injury and civil rights law, described Thomas' one victory at the NCAA championship using inaccurate and transphobic language. 

"Do you know why (Thomas's competitors) came in second and third place? Because that transgender lady used to be a man who swam like a man," McKnight said.

There was not a swimmer from S.C. mentioned during house debate. McKnight did not respond to The Daily Gamecock's request for comment. 

Trans athletes have the potential to beat cisgender kids, just like any other child does. However, their success is sometimes unfairly seen as invalid due to the trans athlete’s identity.

Trans women are not endangering women’s sports — after all, they are women. Women, no matter their identity, can compete fairly against one another; it is more of an issue of athleticism than hormones.

The scapegoating of Thomas presents all sorts of holes in transphobic arguments. For instance, if Thomas had competed in the NCAA event she won in 2022 three years ago, she would have placed third.

The transgender domination of sports is yet to happen; the only "domination” to speak of is sporadic success given a disproportionate amount of airtime compared to other women’s sports victories.

The discussion of the “Save Women's Sports Act" came after the House's celebration of USC's women’s basketball team's national championship win. 

During this discussion, Rep. Melissa Oremus (R-Aiken) touched on the supposed difference between trans athletes and the USC Women's Basketball Team, none of whom are trans, in an effort to advance the transphobic legislation. 

“Let's talk about that championship from South Carolina. Did we have Kobe Bryants with wigs on winning that championship? No, we had women,” Oremus said in the House.

Oremus’ comments come in extremely poor taste.

Along with the politicization of our school’s victory, transphobia, and ignorance of Bryant’s complicated legacy as a feminist and turned LGBTQ+ athlete activist, she likely named the first basketball player that came to mind, without taking into implications of Bryant’s name to fans and the players visiting the Statehouse.

"That was never meant to attack anyone," Oremus said. "(USC's basketball team) were not Kobe Bryants in wigs, they were biological women," she said in a call with The Daily Gamecock.

Oremus invalidates any potential for trans athlete success. The bill aims to segregate competitions based on sex, but there is no conclusive evidence suggesting this segregation's necessity. 

In fact, the more these arguments are investigated, the more they seem like simple attacks on transgender people's identity.

Oremus went on to say that trans athletes could get in the way of cis athletes being awarded athletic scholarships. She was unable to provide evidence of a cis athlete not being awarded a scholarship because of a trans competitor.

Efforts to protect trans athletes are anything but a "woke" effort to subvert K-12 children's athletic success. They are a protection of reason and equal rights to unheard citizens: children.

The entire debate surrounding the presence of trans athletes ignores data and operates purely off of lies and bigotry, with the smallest concern for the future of S.C. students and businesses. 

"Saving women’s sports" in the way conservatives in South Carolina imagine might prevent trans athletes in S.C. from competing, at the cost of future trans athlete's hard work being invalidated by this legislation. All athletes work hard for their success, and until we can prove that someone's identity and therapy leads to victory on a silver platter, conservatives are leading a baseless fight against trans youth and their allies. 


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