I’ve received some comments on my most recent post regarding attacks on transgender children who want to play sports at school. Some have questioned the science and some were unhappy that I was too direct in my criticism of Republicans. Well, you can all rest a little easier, I have found a Democrat to criticize as well. Apparently South Carolina Democratic Representative Cezar McKnight was the architect of a South Carolina bill that would make it a felony for doctors to treat anyone under the age of 18 with life-saving hormone therapy or other gender affirming therapies. The other 23 sponsors of the bill are all Republicans.[i]
I won’t apologize for my opinions. This blog space is open to all members of the Civil Rights Committee to post their own thoughts. I don’t believe it is or should be restricted to legal arguments only or only non-confrontational opinions. I firmly believe that these measures intended to prevent trans kids from playing sports have no basis in science and are a product of a hatred of the transgender child and not an attempt to protect the cis kids.
I believe the Republicans that are doing this are motivated by their hatred as well as a need to find a scapegoat so that they can go tilting at windmills in a seemingly heroic effort to protect the children. They are dehumanizing transgender children and attempting to create a moral panic by painting them as a threat to the social norms. For what purpose? This really isn’t a problem. As I mentioned in the previous post, several lawmakers were asked if there had been any problems in their jurisdictions and none could provide an example.[ii]
The science does not support these fears. Look at the chart of height of boys versus girls.[iii] It shows quite clearly that boys and girls have no great difference in height until they reach puberty. In fact, girls even tend to be taller than boys for a short period of time between the ages of 11 and 14. It is probably true that boys are socialized more aggressively and physically than girls, but we are not putting boys in sports with girls, we are putting transgender girls, who are girls, into sports with other girls.
But are boys genetically predetermined to be taller? If you take a boy who would grow to 6’2” without intervention and undertook therapies for a trans girl, would that child still grow to 6’2”? Well, you can’t exactly do that experiment, but height is not determined only by DNA. A healthy diet, adequate nutrition, exercise, and others all play a role in height. So do hormones. A recent article from 2020 makes a strong argument that estrogen is the limiting factor in growth.[iv] Estrogen triggers bone growth that is why we see the quicker growth spurt in cis girls from 11 to 14, but then, for girls, the ovaries mature and begin to produce mature levels of estrogen and estrogen then triggers the growth plates of bones to solidify, thus halting growth.
Cisgender boys don’t have ovaries, and the smaller amounts of estrogen produced by the testes triggers the growth spurt in boys for a longer time period. Eventually boys’ estrogen peaks and halts their growth as well, but not until several years later. So, you can imagine that 6’2” boy, undergoing a female puberty, is not going to grow to the full 6’2”.
Girls have a natural distribution of sizes just as boys do. Kids come in all shapes and sizes. In some sports, like wrestling, we segregate athletes by size, but others we don’t. Those tall kids, both boys and girls, have a genetic advantage in basketball and volleyball, the smaller kids in gymnastics. Some kids have parents that buy them the best coaching money can buy and others play in hand me down sneakers. Some girls and boys are more naturally aggressive than others.
Page 7 of the NCAA’s Transgender Handbook sets this out better than I did.[v] The NCAA has a policy that trans women may participate on women’s teams after they have undergone at least a year of testosterone suppression treatment. They consider that any genetic advantage being male may give someone, is gone within a year of hormone replacement therapy.
Likewise, the International Olympic Committee allows trans women to compete as women if they have been declared as a woman for 4 years and have testosterone counts below a threshold level for one year.
A review paper from 2016 looked at the literature and studies on transgender athletes and came to the determination that, “Currently, there is no direct or consistent research suggesting transgender female individuals (or male individuals) have an athletic advantage at any stage of their transition (e.g. cross-sex hormones, gender-confirming surgery) and, therefore, competitive sport policies that place restrictions on transgender people need to be considered and potentially revised.”[vi]
The new South Dakota law requires student athletes of any age to attest in writing to their biological sex, based on their genetics and reproductive biology. It goes on to say, “A team or sport designated as being female is available only to participants who are female, based on their biological sex.”[vii]
There is no need for this in elementary school, even up to the age of about 14 or 15. After that there is no question that boys get bigger. If the boys are transitioning they will be undergoing hormone therapy. Like the NCAA, athletics governing bodies can require hormone therapy, anti-androgen therapy or measurement of testosterone levels.
Some of you may have seen the emotional testimony of Brandon Boulware before the Missouri House of Representatives about his transgender daughter and the effect these proposed laws will have on her and other like her.[viii] These proposed laws serve no legitimate purpose other than to harm transgender kids.
Again, we see generally white male self-identified “Christians” trying to control what other people can do with their own lives. It’s wrong and should be opposed on every level.
The author[s] is solely responsible for this blog submission. It does not represent the position of the New York State Bar Association or its Committee.