The Freedom From Religion Foundation supports the “right” of transgender women to compete in women’s sports, claiming that it’s a church/state issue

April 2, 2023 • 11:15 am

I’ll begin this post with my introduction to the same issue last November:

I’ve always been a fan of and a member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF). I am on their Honorary Board of Directors, and in 2011 received their “Emperor Has No Clothes Award”, which as they say is “reserved for public figures who take on the fabled role of the little child in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and ‘tell it like it is’—about religion.” I’ve was very honored with their recognition, and humbled to be added to the many people I admire who have also gotten the gold statue of the naked emperor—a statue made by the same company that makes the Oscars.

Lately, however, the FFRF has crept out of its bailiwick of enforcing separation of church from state, and is, like the ACLU and the SPLC, engaged in matters of social justice. Well, that’s their call, and I wouldn’t beef about it unless I thought they’ve undertaken campaigns that are unwise.

Well, the FFRF has, and has gone to ground on the same issue where the ACLU went astray: transgender issues in sports. I hasten to add again that I think that with almost no exceptions, transgender people should have all the rights, privileges, and moral status as cisgender folks. I’m happy to call them by their chosen sex, treat them as members of their chosen sex, and use their chosen pronouns.

The few exceptions, which I’ve written about in detail, include sports participation (particularly trans women competing against biological women), rape counseling, and inhabiting sex-segregated prisons. There are good reasons for these exceptions, and the reasons all involve fairness to biological women—fairness that can be abrogated by considering transsexual women as fully equivalent to biological women.

The occasion for that long post was the FFRF’s signing an amicus brief supporting a challenge to an Indiana law that prohibited trans women from competing against biological women in sports. The law prohibited trans women in all grades from K-12 (roughly up to age 18) from this participation.  The suit involved a ten-year-old trans girl who sought to compete on a girls team, which isn’t in itself nearly as unfair as a trans woman who’s gone through male puberty doing the same thing (see below). But the FFRF sought to overturn the entire law, which would allow biological men, self identified as women, to compete against biological women even if the trans women had undergone no medical treatment, including puberty blockers, hormones, or surgery.

As I’ve written many times before, and won’t reprise here in detail (see data cited in this post and the addendum below), there’s plenty of evidence that trans women who have gone through puberty have significant athletic advantages over biological women—advantages in musculature, grip strength, body size, bone density, and so on—and these advantages don’t disappear even after several years of hormone treatment. That’s why the Olympics has bailed on its previous hormone-titer criterion for competing in women’s events, and why the International Athletics Council (IAC), which regulates participation in international track and field events, recently barred all transgender women from competing in elite events. In the latter case, the IAC explicitly prioritized “fairness and the integrity” of female competition over “inclusion”. To my mind, that’s the right decision, and will remain the right decision until we find ways to level the playing field for transgender women who want to compete athletically against biological women. (Transgender men are rarely an issue in these decisions since they have an athletic disadvantage against biological men.)

At the time, I didn’t write to the FFRF, but let them know of my objections to the sports issue (not the issue of transgender rights in general) on my blog post.  Apparently a lot of FFRF members objected, too, and I got emails from some of them. Some members even resigned from the organization and removed any bequests to the FFRF.

I have stayed on as an honorary director, even after the FFRF dug in its heels on the issue by claiming that trans rights, including the ‘right’ of transgender women to compete in sports against biological women, was a church/state issue. Why a First Amendment issue? Because many religious Christian nationalist groups, says the FFRF, fight against trans rights, and so all trans rights thereby become church/state issues: the bailiwick of the FFRF. You can see how many issues suddenly become church/state issues because right-wing Christians take different stands on them than do secularists or leftists.

I believe the pushback against the FFRF’s stand from some members led the organization to get Patrick Elliott, the FFRF’s senior litigation council, to write the following article that appeared in both the paper and online issues of the organization’s newsletter, Freethought Today. Click to read:

Elliott’s article mentions sports several times, and yes, he’s right: some 0n the religious right are indeed using sports to attack trans rights in general. As he wrote:

We are familiar with this playbook. The Religious Right finds issues to push their religious agenda, but it doesn’t come out and say “religion!” We see this with issues such as abortion, gay marriage and, now, bans of LGBTQ books. Religion-minded groups and lawmakers are fighting a religious fight but they have wised up and are not pointing to the bible as the source of their concern. Instead, they feign concern for competitiveness in girls sports (why have they never cared before?) and the “appropriateness” of school library materials.

But there are plenty of people NOT on the religious right—liberals like me and other members of the FFRF—who firmly believe that trans people should be accorded almost every right enjoyed by non-trans people, but with a few exceptions, including the “right” to compete in athletics against biological women, the “right” to be rape counselors for biological women, and the “right” to be put in a women’s prison if you identify as a woman.  Several colleagues and I (all liberals) wrote to the FFRF laying out our objections, and received a polite letter back from co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, basically telling us, “Thanks for the advice, but this is a church/state issue, we’re sticking to our guns, and the sports thing isn’t that big a deal anyway.”

So it goes. But I guess the FFRF is still receiving complaints from members about this one issue, as it’s just put up another piece at Freethought Now—this time by Kat Grant, an Equal Justice Works Fellow at the FFRF. It’s pretty similar to Elliott’s piece above, defending the “right” of secondary-school trans women to compete in athletics against biological issues. After all, it’s a church-state issue!

Click to read:

Again, I have no complaint about most of what Kat Grant says, but there’s one bit about sports that the FFRF is still pushing (emphasis below is mine):

Sexual assault and domestic violence advocates have debunked the “bathroom predator myth” for years, noting that transgender people are more likely to be victims of violent assaults in public bathrooms, rather than perpetrators. Similarly, claims that transgender people are a danger to girls’ and women’s sports are unfounded. Many state school athletic associations have had policies allowing transgender children to play on teams that align with their gender identity for years before they started making headlines, and the Olympics have had trans-inclusive policies since 2004. Yet in competitions where transgender girls and cisgender girls compete together, there is no consistent history of transgender athletes dominating, because there is no consistent correlation between testosterone levels and athletic performance.

The bit in bold is deeply misleading, and in fact mostly wrong.  Yes, there were no rules a while back because there were very few trans women seeking to compete athletically against biological women. That number has now grown strongly, and, contrary to Grant, there is a consistent history of “transgender athletes dominating” when they, as trans women, compete against biological women. It’s almost humorous that Grant distorts the data this way.

The claim that there is no “consistent correlation”between testosterone levels and athletic performance” may be true if you look only within biological women, but if you compare men or trans women with biological women, there certainly is a correlation across the groups! That is in fact exactly why the Olympics used to use testosterone levels as a criterion for participation in women’s events: there was an upper limit. (As I said, in the face of the data that even setting an upper testosterone level doesn’t “level the playing field”, the Olympics has thrown up its hands and bailed on the whole issue, saying that each sport has to make its own criteria.)  And so Grant is also wrong in her claim about the Olympics.

The whole paragraph is misleading, and somebody at the FFRF should be fact-checking this.

The upshot? Well, we’re seeing mission creep in the FFRF, which used to attack more blatant church-state issues like praying in schools or legislatures. (By the way, why isn’t the FFRF making gun control a huge issue given that, like attacks on trans rights, it’s largely the religious who oppose gun control?)

And although trans rights are indeed attacked by Christian nationalists, the sports, rape, and jail issues for trans women are of concern to nonreligious people like me and many others, including J.K. Rowling (you might have heard the podcast about her on the Free Press).  And if the FFRF is resolute in taking on trans rights, they should stop going down the Chase Strangio road of claiming that any biological male who merely claims to identify as a women, regardless of hormone treatment or surgery, should be recognized as a woman and enjoy all the rights of biological women.

I’ll finish by saying something that I think most rational people would agree with, but apparently not the FFRF:

It is unfair, and should not be legal, for a biological male who identifies as a woman—and has had no surgery or hormone treatment—to compete in track and field events against biological women.

Agreed, right? If so, you’re opposed to the views of the FFRF.

What mystifies me about all this is that the FFRF has always had a strong feminist slant, beginning with its founder Anne Nicol Gaylor and continuing through today. Many of their stands help defend the rights of women, which is great. But it seems that in this case they’re throwing biological women under the bus to defend the “rights” of biological men to compete in women’s athletics—when those men, deemed “trans women” have a palpable advantage in size, strength, and athletic ability.

In other words, the FFRF is prioritizing a declared trans “right” over the rights of women. And that is wrong. This is another example of MacPherson’s Rule, named after reader Diana, which states that “whenever two claimed rights clash, and one of the rights is women’s rights, that is the one that always loses.”

I’ve always been a strong supporter of the FFRF: it’s my very favorite secularist/humanist organization. But this time they’ve gone too far, and have refused to take what most of us would see as a reasonable stand on this issue. I will share this post with them, but I have little hope that they will modify their stand on trans rights so that they don’t trample on women’s rights.


UPDATE: Here’s a relatively new paper showing that, on average, even when you compare men and women with equal muscle size, the men are generally stronger and perform better in weightlifting.

59 thoughts on “The Freedom From Religion Foundation supports the “right” of transgender women to compete in women’s sports, claiming that it’s a church/state issue

  1. As an amateur sportsman, this debate I find has two aspects. Playing squash, although the objective was to win. But the whole point was to improve and one does that by playing against stronger opposition. So, in the men’s league, I played in, had the occasional woman who was improving their game. No problem.
    The issue seems to arise if we are doing sports for fame or monetary gain. I suspect some of the controversies we are experiencing, are more to make a political point as much as anything.

    1. We’re talking mostly about school sports teams here, and the biological women on those teams are objecting to the participation of trans women. The trans women aren’t just practicing to get experience, they are part of regular school and college competition. The point is NOT monetary game, but fair competition. And no, the women on those teams who are objecting are doing so because they rightly consider it unfair, not because they want to make a political point.

    2. rom, the question at issue is, in terms of the example you gave, what would it be like for women players if playing in the men’s league was their *only* option to play — i.e. they had no league of their own from which men were excluded? They would know beforehand that they effectively have no chance of ever winning. Clearly that will have an effect on depressing the motivation for women to enter the sport, to put it mildly.

      1. I can remember playing (in my late twenties) a woman who was in her sixties. I was just learning. She trounced me 9-0, 9-0, 10-9 (I think she was taking pity on me). Turns out she was an ex-English number one.

        I think with suitable handicaps (mine was my ability at the time). But to answer your question … if we are playing for fame then it matters, if we are playing for enjoyment I would argue not.

        1. Really? What about transmen being hurt in rugby “for fun”. They are banned from World Rugby. As for giving people handicaps, you know that is unworkable for team sports and also for individual sports.

    3. The other aspect is that trans women are now able to compete for college athletics scholarships in the US. Will there be an opposition when trans women start taking more of these scholarships, some of them four years, full ride?

      The easy solution to this is to get rid of college athletic scholarships in the US but and use the money for academic scholarships but alas that is not going to happen.

    4. The number one women’s outdoor target archer does not get to be famous for that accomplishment, and is pretty unlikely to turn it into a fortune, either.
      Some people are just driven to be the best. This issue is not about mixed play in casual sports*, but about serious competition. That can happen at a lot of levels. There are a lot of kids working out and practicing every day, working very hard with the ultimate goal of maybe getting to go to the Olympics to compete in whatever obscure sport they play.
      The women’s high school long jump competition may not be important to the majority of us, but there are girls that take it very seriously.

      * Except for the side issue of girls who find that they dare not object to the teammate who gets to watch them shower and change, or likes to use the locker room to show the girls “her penis”. That can be a really big deal for for a preteen girl.

      1. In the first quoted part of the FFRF article it says “Religion-minded groups and lawmakers [….] feign concern for competitiveness in girls sports (why have they never cared before?)”

        Because it hasn’t been an issue before. It’s not rocket science. It’s similar to things I’ve seen said in the comments at PZ’s blog in response to reasonable concerns. Whether the concern is for the safety of women prisoners if male-bodied transwomen are put in women’s prisons, or the risks to women and girls in locker rooms or even women’s refuges, the stock response is ‘it’s never happened before’. Well, no, of course it hasn’t, because such unfettered access to female-only spaces has never been allowed before.

  2. Our host makes this parenthetic note in passing: “(Transgender men are rarely an issue in these decisions since they have an athletic disadvantage against biological men.)” Don’t we have here the seed of a new “Equity” issue? Equal outcomes for transgender men can only be ensured by barring biological men from competition in men’s sports. We can expect the ACLU (and maybe FFRF too?) to favor this when the issue is raised.

    Seriously: the argument that FFRF should weigh in on the sports issue because the Religious Right is against trans rights takes guilt-by-association to a level of parody. If the Religious Right favors highway speeding limits, does that require FFRF to
    oppose speed limits? And should Liberals favor jumping out of windows when we discover that Republicans (well, most of them) believe in the existence of gravity?

    1. “Transgender men are rarely an issue in these decisions.”

      In some instances, the transmen say the quiet part out loud. Last year in preparation for the 2023 Boston Marathon, a third category for nonbinary runners was established. But some transmen realized they might not be competitive against the transwomen, and argued for a fourth category so that male and female trans people could compete separately.

      At press time, the Boston Athletic Association web site noted that “Discussions are ongoing with non-binary athletes in an effort to further promote inclusion at all B.A.A. events”, but the 2023 race still has only one nonbinary category.

    2. From the first FFRF quote: “there is no consistent history of transgender athletes dominating”

      So what? It makes no difference even if no transwomen ever dominate the sports. The fact still remains that for every transwomen who qualifies for a competition or gets a place on a team, a woman has to miss out.

        1. And it is set to be an ongoing, escalating issue as more schools allow boys to compete against girls, particularly for the teenagers. What will the motivation be for girls to persevere in sports if they are regularly being beaten by male-bodied competitors? It can only result in more girls giving up competitive sports if their best efforts are futile.
          In several places I have seen well-meaning (but wrong-thinking) suggestions that girls and women should refuse to compete in events against transfemales, but that would just be excluding more girls and women.
          The only clear and fair answer is to ensure that people only compete in sport in the sex category they were born. A human’s sex is innate and unchangeable, and no amount of surgery or wishful thinking can alter that simple, irrefutable fact.

      1. The FFRF statement you quote is simply a barefaced lie: at they maintain a list (since 2014) of female athletes who *would* have placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd in competition but for being pipped by a transgender athlete. The list is already more than 400 rows long …

  3. The r/atheist subreddit has a thread proclaiming that it’s only Christian bigotry that opposes trans inclusion in women’s sports/spaces, because nobody else could possibly take issue with that.

    1. Mark, I like those stories too. More people should play hockey! I played beer league with female players, and some were very good players (I was not!), but all were smaller than almost all the guys and everybody had to be a little more careful about physical contact with the females. Even in non-contact hockey bad outcomes are expected when males play against females. This Quillette story is one example.

      Scroll down for video of a bad injury caused by a huge transwoman hitting a much smaller transman. Only at about half speed but results in a bad head injury. It’s all amicable as you say – all the players responded quickly with compassion. And of course guys get hurt too playing hockey against other guys or just by tripping over the blueline (that was my specialty), but injuries are expected to be more common for females hurt by incidental contact with larger faster males. Any transwoman should be welcome in a men’s game, but I think they should stay out of women’s hockey and not play against transmen or other females. One could say that in both cases the transmen are choosing to play against males, but I wonder how willingly (imagine the backlash against a transman who says it’s unsafe).

      edit: A propos of that backlash, the player who was hit from behind and suffered a concussion later described the incident as “playing the puck [followed by] a very odd fall into the boards”, said that talking about this was “sensitive”, and made no mention of having been checked from behind by a much larger male player.

  4. The FFRF seem to be in favour of trans ideology, not on its merits, but purely because right-wing Christians are against it. That is tribalism rather than a reasoned, evidence-based approach.

    And anyone who doesn’t accept that, in the vast majority of sports, men overall have a big advantage over women, and that that is the entire point of segregating sports by sex, is not taking a reasoned, evidence-based approach.

    It is sad to see the FFRF going the way of too many atheist/humanist organisations in the US and becoming woke.

  5. Like PCC, I sent them an email after last year’s amicus brief, and got the seemingly personal email from Ms Gaylor emphasizing that the case was about a 10 yr old (presumably pre-pubescent) while not mentioning that the law in question would apply to a 17 yo post adolescent male. And I pointed out that just because fundamentalist X’ians were for or against any one thing, didn’t mean that atheists had to take the opposite stand, as in comments #2 and 6.
    And there was a personal note about the difficulties faced by a teen aged trans step-grandchild. (I hadn’t said anything about how it would have been very difficult for my daughters to have had to compete with biologic males when they were in HS track and x-country). FFRF’s stance seems rather anti-feminist.
    I hadn’t read their latest scribe, knowing what it would likely say, so I thank PCC for doing so and putting it up here. And now I think I’ll respond and tell them, like the ACLU, they’re getting no more dosh from me now nor in my “afterlife.”

  6. I have read Kai Grant’s article and find little to disagree with except the sports issue. The push of the Christian nationalists/Republican Party on the role of transgendered people in American society is one skirmish in the many front culture war to establish a theocracy in the United States. The FFRF clearly realizes this and has apparently chosen to fight the Christian nationalists on every front. I applaud them from this. So, why do they support transgender women participating in women’s sports? I think there are two possibilities: 1) they don’t understand the science or 2) they choose to ignore the science because their political strategy is never give an inch to the Christian nationalists, regardless of what the issue may be.

    If they have adopted a “never give an inch” strategy, it seems to be a poor one in this instance. It may be a boon to the Christian nationalists if most people that have an opinion on this issue think that transgendered women should not be allowed to participate in women’s sports. In other words, the religious right could use the FFRF’s position as a wedge to deny transgendered their legitimate rights in other areas. In regard to this issue, the FFRF has ignored the big picture. The Christian nationalists/religious right/Republican Party are banking their hope for political dominance via the culture wars. Economic and foreign policy issues are sideshows. Their secular opponents need to understand that a good general in this war will not fight battles that are likely unwinnable. Good generals will not waste their resources, in this case political capital and public support. The FFRF should disengage from this battle and prepare for the later ones that will really count.

    1. I have no idea why the FFRF has evolved to this direction. But it walks and talks and quacks like its because it has been infiltrated by people who came in with the evidence-free ideologies in the first place.

        1. Religion is a subset of evidence-free ideology. Not all evidence-free ideologies are religions, but all religions are evidence-free.

          To be fair, though, gender identity ideology does look very much like a religious cult, what with the beliefs you are expected to accept and how believers respond to heretics. It’s sad how many atheists have become believers and are trying to push their beliefs on others.

  7. This will all become moot …. if.when “Congress” finishes passing the “Equality Act.” which has been floated many times, never passed. It has all the Woke identity categories in it. This “Equality Act” is a proposed vast widening of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

    I love how it lists grievances to be fixed, and then says “and for other purposes.”

    I am only slightly exaggerating when I say this Act widens public accommodation basically to “all of reality.” For instance, it includes “goods and services,” which is nearly everything humans do with each other, so this is “nationalizing privacy.” It gives Government (the State) criminal basis for thoughts/motivations leading to contract decisions. For instance, if I for any reason decline to contract to fill a custom order for a cake, being a baker. Government has to either a) forbid declining for any reason; or b) “investigate the motive” for declining, and then “adjudicate” if my transgression is subsumed under The Act. If that is not Thought Police, I don’t know what is.

    Gist: you are not allowed to decline to engage with someone for any reason if deemed to “discriminate” by …. by everything Woke declares to be mean. I predict it will extend to “having a dislike” of a person as a criminal act — which is why Woke forced dictionaries to wedge “dislike” into the definition of “phobia.”

    Perhaps it is time for moderate Democrats to reexamine the concept of government prosecuting crimes of “discrimination” AKA for 1) declining to contract/engage; and 2) thoughts. Does “public accommodation” really extend to all of human endeavor? Do you see how the ‘first flush’ of this act, when ridden up the mountain by activists, will answer ‘yes’ to that — “everything is public.” [“The personal life is dead in Russia.” ~ Strelnikov to Yuri Zhivago.]

    Try keeping a 240 lb. male linebacker from forcing his way onto the girls swim team after this “Equality Act” goes into effect.

  8. Ironic. Trans Ideology (distinct from gender dysphoria and those who suffer from it) IS a religion.

    Here’s an excerpt from an essay by an 8 year old. She quotes:

    “In a review article by Emma N. Hilton and Tommy R. Lundberg titled “Transgender Women in the Female Category of Sport: Perspectives on Testosterone Suppression and Performance Advantage,” they found that:

    Males have: larger and denser muscle mass, and stiffer connective tissue, with associated capacity to exert greater muscular force more rapidly and efficiently; reduced fat mass, and different distribution of body fat and lean muscle mass, which increases power to weight ratios and upper to lower limb strength in sports where this may be a crucial determinant of success; longer and larger skeletal structure, which creates advantages in sports where levers influence force application, where longer limb/digit length is favorable, and where height, mass and proportions are directly responsible for performance capacity; superior cardiovascular and respiratory function, with larger blood and heart volumes, higher hemoglobin concentration, greater cross-sectional area of the trachea and lower oxygen cost of respiration.”

    You can read the full essay here:

    Someone should forward this young girl’s essay to the FFRF.

    1. I’m coming around to the view that trans and gender ideology is indeed our newest secular religion, and shares many of the markers of a religion in that one is not allowed to question its orthodoxies and there are social rewards for displaying allegiance to the ideology. And of course, sanctions for not towing the line. So FFRF has really tied itself into a gordian knot here, especially as trans ideology becomes more widely accepted into government policy.

      Somewhat related to this thread: I came across this article yesterday, written by a gender nonconforming biologist who conflates sex and sexual development in an effort to promote this new religion. Maybe others will find it interesting:

      1. Just read this from the gender nonconforming biologist and it remind me of creationist studying biology up to PhD level, the state: I am a biologist and say that Darwin was wrong, ergo: god did it………….
        Of course: the arguments the trans-activist use basically boils down to: Clown fish, ergo trans…………….
        Using arguments that sex change is possible in some non-mammal organism is in my view highly misleading and intellectually dishonest. In mammals and many other non mammals animals also; sex is binary (some say strictly binary, others says mostly binary)
        In my opinion and most other biologist (I have a Msc in Developmental biology) to say that biological sex is a spectrum is just plain wrong. You may say that gender identity is spectrum. But, as Dawkins recently said, I don’t care about that. In biology; there are two sexes

        I am retired now so not afraid to state my opinion. I am also living in Norway and here we thankfully can state our opinion without being afraid to lose our job. The situation in the US and especially in Canada is really getting bad when it comes to cancel culture

        As many readers of WEIT know, in Europe the situation is far more reasonable and there’s more and more push back now against the most extreme trans activist

      1. Sorry. I clicked the wrong “reply”. I meant to direct the question to Rosemary Alles. She makes that claim in comment #10.

        1. I can’t speak for Rosemary, but in my view transgenderism relies on the existence of a “gender identity” akin to a “gendered soul” for which no more evidence exists than for the “religious soul”.

          If sexist stereotypes about what men/boys and women/girls are supposed to look like, wear, behave like, and do etc. were eradicated – as many of us long for, and hoped that we were making progress towards – then transgenderism would cease to exist, too. I’ve never seen it explained how a male can “feel like” a female (or vice versa) without recourse to sex stereotypes typical of, for example, the 1950s.

        2. As this issue has been kicking around a lot lately, I took the liberty of cut/pasting this from Emilio Gentile’s “Politics as Religion”:
          “A political religion is a form of sacralization of politics that has an exclusive and fundamentalist nature. It does not accept the coexistence of other political ideologies and movements, it denies the autonomy of the individual in relation to the collectivity, it demands compliance with its commandments and participation in its political cult, and it sanctifies violence as a legitimate weapon in the fight against its enemies and as an instrument of regeneration.
          Whether or not we believe in the existence of secular religions, we cannot deny proven historical facts. Mass fanaticism, enthusiasm for myths, personality cults, dogmatic ideologies, and implacable hatred all in the name of a sacralized entity: these are the tragic realities of contemporary history.”
          I think Trans as well as Gender Theory and all the other fruits of Critical Theory fit the bill here.
          Also, as other commenters have mentioned, there is an element of metaphysical gnosticism in Trans ideology, especially in re the idea of the body as a malleable and incidental shell, with gender being a divine essence aka your “True Self”.
          Gender (in my thinking) is a postmodern post-Freudian remaking of the soul, everyone has one from birth, it is invisible and unknowable yet sacred and inviolable, it is eternal yet constantly in flux, it is the most essential part of our humanity and it should never be questioned or discounted but only obeyed.
          It is as metaphysical a concept as any god or ghost, and its creators and believers respond to questioning much the same way as all fundamentalists do: with rage and intolerance and a need to attack any dissent as blasphemous heresy.

  9. The FFRF is making a mistake here. They need to adopt the caveat that trans women who transitioned during or after puberty should not be competing against women (cis or trans) in sports where the advantages of male puberty can bias outcomes. It’s a sensible carve out that is needed both on the grounds of fairness and on the grounds of safety (the safety of competitors who did not experience male puberty and who could be injured during competition).

    The credibility of the FFRF depends on its consistent adherence to the science.

  10. I am agnostic as to whether woke ideology is a new religion. But secular ideology pursued with a reactionary mindset, a self-righteous religious fervor, a tribal insularity, and a resistance to reason is not my idea of progress—no matter who the perceived adversary.

  11. Problem at mill. FFRF.
    Chase Strangio gets to speak first and loudest at policy meetings?
    The foundations are wobbling under the “weight” being exerted by Chase Strangio? Unconsciously or otherwise. This is not necessarily his problem it has to be said.
    The wider view is neglected because of a formidable record of activism (validated and some not) by Chase Strangio. His call (tweet) for banning a book not aligning to held ideology for one is a direct affront to freedom of speech and it is not a religious book! But IT IS a direct assault on Chase Strangio”s hard held beliefs.
    FFRF has shot themselves bypassing the foot and aimed it at the head.

  12. Is FFRF campaigning against the multitude of anti-abortion laws as a church/state issue? “Right to life” campaigns have been run by Christian Fundamentalists from the very beginning, and funding of campaigns and the pressure on legislators to vote for anti-abortion legislation has come very largely from that source. Does this not constitute an effective ‘establishment of religion’? If anything, their push to allow trans-women to compete against women-born would weaken – actually trivialize – a First Amendment argument against tyrannical and even deadly anti-abortion legislation.

    1. Yes, I think they’ve campaigned quite heavily for pro-choice issues, which is fine by me as I not only agree with that stand, but it’s much more closely connected with religion than are transgender issues.

  13. I hasten to add again that I think that with almost no exceptions, transgender people should have all the rights, privileges, and moral status as cisgender folks.

    I disagree – transgender people should have the exact same rights as everyone else. What they demand – and which I believe we should refuse to give them – are extra rights.

    Transwomen absolutely have the right to participate in sports. Their wish to be granted the additional right to be included in the women’s category is, however, unreasonable, unfair, and – in the case of contact sports – dangerous. We don’t confer that right on any other males, and nor should we. The same goes for example incarceration in women’s prisons, access to women’s bathrooms and changing rooms, rape crisis centres, and so on. Equal provision, not shared provision.

    As the saying goes:

    If a man wishes to see himself as a woman, that’s up to him to decide. If he wishes the rest of us to see himself as one, well, that’s our decision.

    1. Indeed. The problem is not that trans people have less rights. They don’t. Trans people (and trans women in particular) are claiming rights that aren’t theirs by definition, and shouldn’t be theirs. I wonder how far mr Coyne is willing to go in making a mockery of biology and reason to accomodate “trans rights”.
      I don’t see how you can argue for giving trans people special rights based on what is basically a religious belief (in “gender identity” and humans changing sex, which is as silly as immaculate conception or turning water into wine) contrary to science, but be critical of Christians or other religious people arguing for special religious rights. They are the same thing.

      1. Re this: ” I wonder how far mr Coyne is willing to go in making a mockery of biology and reason to accomodate “trans rights”.

        I haven’t done anything but recommend they be given the same rights as non trans people, and I have not made a mockery of biology and reason.

        You can apologize, or you can be banned.

    2. Your formulation is correct, Jez, for what we think of as negative rights. The State can’t prevent trans people from voting and marrying, imprison them without due process, or deny them free medical treatment because they are trans.

      Oops, but here we slipped into positive rights while no one was looking. Trans people get their broken legs fixed and their depression treated for free to the extent that Leviathan can afford to pay for those treatments for anyone. But what about gender-affirming care? For us to pay for surgery and drugs to make the patient’s physical appearance conform (to some superficial extent) to his wishful belief about his true sex requires that we, the payers, decide to see him/her in the role that s/he claims. Indeed such care makes no medical sense except insofar as we endorse that decision (other than in some perverted sense of mutilation for cosmetic purposes.)

      “I want my penis turned inside out so it looks like a vagina.”
      “What on earth for?”
      “Because I’m really a woman.”
      “Oh. All right-y then. The hospital will do it under its public global budget and I will send a bill for the province to pay my surgical fee. I’ll schedule you, …let’s check my waiting list, …for two years from now.”
      “Two years? Can’t you do it sooner?”
      “Sure. Call it cosmetic/not medically necessary and I can legally do it next week for cash.”

      This will not be easily resolved. The trans lobby wants more capacity (i.e., money taken from somewhere else) to have this surgery done for free in the public system.

  14. I think another reason atheist orgs are kneejerk for trans everything is that a lot of detransitioners no longer have community, so they end up in the arms of right wing Christian Nationalists, who are using them as a political tool. It’s quite sad, really.

  15. The Religious Right is wrong on a very important point: they think the social and legal acceptance of transgender identities is the natural result of allowing gay marriage. They lump women’s liberation, homosexuality, and transgenderism into the same category. They’re all examples of men and women abandoning their natural roles and places decreed by God. They’re all sins, and they’re all signs of a decayed, depraved, secular society enthralled by the seductive individualism of Satan. Only Jesus can save. Fight them together.

    They’re wrong. They’re wrong about God and Christianity. They’re wrong about the God-given role & place of men & women. They’re wrong about feminism and homosexuality. They’re wrong about transgender doctrine being inspired by the devil. That’s all more or less a given.

    But they’re also wrong to include the claim that “Gender Identity is a replacement for sex” in with “there’s nothing wrong with being same-sex attracted.” In their blind focus on superficial similarities (men acting like women!) they can’t see that no, transgender is NOT like being gay. Trans Rights are not JUST LIKE Gay Rights.

    It’s not a progression. It’s a harsh departure from a rational, scientific understanding of reality. And recognizing the distinction between this and the others takes the kind of thoughtful analysis they’re not inclined to do. They lump them together under Liberalism and Sin and make it part of their fight for a theocracy. They’re fooled.

    And the religious conservatives have then fooled a lot of secular liberals, including many atheists.

    Concerns about the doctrines of transgender identities — including male athletes in women’s sports — is non-partisan and unconnected to church/state separation. But you have to look beyond what the Religious Right says, and not believe them.

    1. The religious right aren’t alone in force-teaming the LGB with the TQ+. As so often, the religious right and transgender rights activists (TRAs) have much in common (the burning of Harry Potter books is another example, and the Nazis had a similar fondness for book burning, of course ). This doesn’t stop TRAs trying to paint people critical of gender identity ideology as being the ones aligned with the religious nuts and Nazis.

      You only have to see how lesbians (e.g. Get the L Out) and gay men (e.g. Stonewall riots veteran Fred Sergeant) are treated by the LGBTQ+ mob to see how opposition to this forced-teaming results in unprovoked violence.

      1. “This doesn’t stop TRAs trying to paint people critical of gender identity ideology as being the ones aligned with the religious nuts and Nazis.”

        *Cough* PZ and his horde *cough*

    2. “they can’t see that no, transgender is NOT like being gay. Trans Rights are not JUST LIKE Gay Rights.”

      It’s not the religious right making this claim, or at least they didn’t invent it. It’s the LGBTQ activists and basically every single organisation supposedly fighting for their rights, every single liberal Western government (which is pretty much all of them), official government institution and medical organisation that are making this claim. They will brand you a nazi for even suggesting this.

      1. You’re right about the left, but you left out the right. Conservative Christians absolutely are lumping gay & trans together both ideologically and politically — and could have been predicted to do so. They’ve been reliably opposed to anything that “sissifies” men or “unwomans” women for generations.

        The TRAs may be using a winning strategy of force-teaming the TQ with the LGB, but I don’t see how they could have suggested the connection to the religious conservatives.

  16. Actually, I don’t quite agree with this statement:

    “It is unfair, and should not be legal, for a biological male who identifies as a woman—and has had no surgery or hormone treatment—to compete in track and field events against biological women.”

    I would say, rather, something like this

    “It is unfair, and in some cases unsafe for a male who has been through puberty to compete against females in sports where physical ability is important. It should not be legal.”

    The point being that identification, surgery and hormones are irrelevant to the biology. This isn’t really a trans issue, but a biology issue and the focus of discussion should be on the biology. It just sometimes involves males who identify as trans as well as some males who have a DSD. We have long had separate men’s and women’s divisions because of post-puberty male physical advantage. This is an old and well known issue. It makes no sense to grant exceptions to that.

    The only case where males have been shown to be able to compete fairly against females is when they haven’t gone through puberty. For older males, that usually means puberty blockers were used but not always. Once a male has gone through puberty, there is no going back. Cross sex hormones do little to decrease male physical advantage.

    That some religious groups argue correctly on this particular biology based issue should be irrelevant. It is ridiculous to condemn a science based argument just because some religious groups also support it for their own purposes.

  17. I’m simply dumbfounded by the FFRF position.

    For many years, I have been a very senior referee in the International Taekwon-Do Federation; I usually run the breaking events at world championships. (“Taekwon-Do” comprehends a number of competing governing bodies; what the ITF does is quite different than what you see in the Olympics, which is the WT, or World Taekwon-Do version. They used to call themselves the World Taekwon-Do Federation, until one day they realized that that acronym was problematical…but I digress.)

    We compete in three disciplines: 1) patterns, or tul (what in karate they call “kata”); 2) sparring; and 3) breaking, with both hands and feet demonstrating several techniques.

    I suppose that one could downplay the rôle of sex in pattern competition, with its emphasis on balance, flexibility, and extension. But breaking? Women are taking the top of the podium by breaking eight or nine boards with a side piercing kick; I shudder to think about the injuries if they *could* hit hard enough to do a 12-board (or more) break. With hand techniques, the difference is even greater. And sparring? In recent years, the sparring has been moving inexorably from “semi-contact” to full contact. I don’t like it, but they ain’t asking me. What would happen is that women would die. Of course, I may change my mind about all of this as soon as biological women start taking heavyweight boxing belts away from biological men.

    Eighth-graders can apparently figure this out. Maybe the FFRF should ask one.

  18. John McEnroe already suggested we should just do the experiment and let women compete in the same tennis league as the men, then see what happens. What happens is that the absolute best women will be somewhere in place 500 of the world ranking. Even Serena Williams said outright than men’s tennis is like a completely different sport from women’s tennis.

  19. The words of a German male tennis player, ranked about 200 at the time (1998), who took on Serena and Venus Williams’ claim that they could beat a man at or around that ranking:

    “It was 1998 Australian Open and the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, had seen some of the male players practicing. On the basis of what they saw, they were convinced that they could beat a man ranked around 200 in the world and wanted to set up a game. I didn’t take much persuading, it seemed like a fun thing to do.

    “My first game of the afternoon, just a one-set match, was against Serena. We were out on one of the backcourts at Melbourne Park, No 17 I think it was. I felt so relaxed that I didn’t even warm up properly. We started playing and I raced into a 5-0 lead.

    “At this point, Venus turned up to watch. She had just finished a press conference after a quarter-final loss against Lindsey Davenport. In the end, I won my game against Serena 6-1 but by the time we were at the net shaking hands, Venus was on the court, ready to have a go against me as well. The game against Venus was very similar. I ended up winning 6-2.”

    Although Karsten won the match, it was played with a light intent. Nonetheless, he remembered meeting Venus again later in the future. He recollected that moment and stated, “I saw Venus a few months later at the French Open she came up to me with a big smile on her face and said, ‘You know that thing in Australia – it never happened!”

    From the website Essentially Sports.

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