Woman opposing participation of trans women on women’s sports teams assaulted at SFSU

April 8, 2023 • 11:15 am

This is what is known as a “viral” story, probably because it encapsulates the vitriol heaped upon those who don’t think that transgender women (especially those who have gone through male puberty) should participate in women’s sports. That happens to be a hot issue, at least among political people, both Left and Right.

People are of course free to express their opinion about this issue one way or another, but what you cannot do, at least at a state university, is disrupt and, yes, PHYSICALLY ATTACK someone expressing a view you don’t like.

So here we are back at San Francisco State University (SFSU), site of another fracas involving a professor who showed a painting of Muhammad (see my report here). SFSU must be a hotbed of The Intolerant Offended.

In this case we have two reports; the first one below is from CNN, the second from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).  Both report the same incident: Riley Gaines, a former college swimmer, gave a talk at SFSU in which she opposed allowing transgender women to compete in women’s sports. This time the reaction was violent:  although I think she actually delivered the talk (through disruptions), she was physically attacked thereafter (as a “transphobe,” of course), and had to hide for several hours.

Click either screenshot to read.

From FIRE:

From CNN:

Former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines said she was assaulted Thursday on the campus of San Francisco State University.

Gaines was at the school to speak about her views opposing the inclusion of transgender athletes in women’s sports, according to the event announcement.

“I was physically assaulted by one person. I was struck twice, both times hitting my shoulder with the second strike grazing my face,” Gaines told CNN’s Natasha Chen.“The rest of the protestors just ambushed and cornered me before I was able to move out with the help of campus police.”

A video Gaines posted from the event showed her moving quickly while surrounded by security officers. A protester can be heard shouting “trans rights are human rights,” but the video is shaky and does not appear to show an assault.

FIRE’s account, in which she apparently gave her talk, or at least most of it, but was disrupted:

Well, that wasn’t an exaggeration. Last night, protestors at San Francisco State University attempted to shout down and shut down a speaking event with former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines. The school’s Turning Point USA chapter had invited Gaines to campus to talk about gender and sports, but she was met by an angry crowd chanting and screaming at her to leave.

While Gaines gave her speech, protestors continued to disrupt the event, drowning her out by stomping and yelling inside the room and in the hallway immediately outside while she spoke. After her speech, police attempted to escort Gaines to a secure location, but the crowd followed them out of the room and down the hallway, screaming and shouting until police locked Gaines in a secure room. Gaines reportedly remained trapped inside the room for almost three hours until the protestors dispersed and police escorted her out.

Here’s the video she tweeted and and then a news report:

A news report (from Fox News, of course) with more video:

Of course nobody was arrested; these hecklers are free to disrupt anybody anywhere, apparently.  Here’s a bit more from CNN. The disruption was condemned by both a conservative and by a liberal organization.

Andrew Kolvet, a spokesperson for Turning Point USA [organizers of the event], said he spoke to three people who were in the room Thursday night.

He said they told him Gaines spoke to a room of people during the event, including individuals who disagreed with her viewpoint. According to those present, Kolvet said the conversation was constructive and polite, and that the disruption happened as the event was wrapping up.

Kolvet was not present Thursday evening but was in communication with Gaines via text while she was brought by campus police into a computer room during the incident, where they remained locked inside while protestors were at the door. . . .

. . . “We are conducting an ongoing investigation into the situation. There were no arrests related to the event,” the university police department said in a statement. “The disruption occurred after the conclusion of the event which made it necessary for UPD officers to move the event speaker from the room to a different, safe location.”

University police did not immediately respond to an inquiry by CNN on the nature of “the disruption” and whether the investigation is related to the alleged assault.

Gaines tied transgender swimmer Lia Thomas for fifth place in the women’s 200-meter freestyle final at the 2022 NCAA swimming and diving championships and has been vocal about her opposition to the inclusion of trans women in women’s swimming.

“This is an appalling attack on free speech on a college campus,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Twitter. “House Republicans stand with Riley Gaines and her brave and tireless efforts to protect women’s sports.”

PEN America, a literary and free expression advocacy organization, called the incident a “disaster.”

“Physical intimidation or violence is never an acceptable response to speech, no matter how hateful or controversial that speech may be,” said Kristen Shahverdian, PEN America’s senior manager in free expression and education.

And from FIRE:

SFSU must, in fact, investigate the disruption of last night’s event and determine whether the administration and campus security took appropriate action to satisfy the university’s duty to ensure protected speech and expressive events can occur on campus, and whether they had any role in fomenting or sustaining the disruption.

This latest incident at SFSU illustrates a broader trend of students shouting down speakers with whom they disagree. We saw similar shout-downs on Tuesday at UAlbany and at Stanford Law School last month.

To be clear, the heckler’s veto — substantial disruption of expressive events — is not protected speech. The students who protested outside the event without disrupting it engaged in First Amendment protected activity. But those who stomped and yelled during Gaines’ appearance in an attempt to drown her out, or accosted her in the halls to intimidate her, did not.

If you want to send either a pre-written message or your own message to the President of SFSU, click on the box below, which you can use to send an email. I’ve already done so (the form is at the bottom of the linked page):

This is what I wrote:

Dear President Lynn Mahoney:

This is the second time in two weeks that SFSU has been the venue for illiberal protests against reasonable views (the first incident involved the showing a picture of Muhammad, which you are illegally “investigating,”  and now we have a physical attack on swimmer Riley Gaines. Apparently nobody was detained after physically attacking Gaines, even though this was clearly illegal assault.

SFSU needs to educate its students about the First Amendment and the proper way to oppose speech without disrupting it. Otherwise, like Hamline University, you’re going to get a terrible national reputation. I would suggest that students who attack others be arrested, and that you start taking concrete steps to educate people about free speech and then enforce the rules you have (you ARE a state institution).  Oh, and please drop the “investigation” of professor Maziar Behrooz, which is unconscionable. You surely know that he did nothing wrong.

Jerry Coyne
Professor Emeritus
Dept. Ecology & Evolution
The University of Chicago

What is sad about this is that the question of how transgender people can participate in sport is going to become an increasingly important question over time given the huge rise in transitioning, so we need to have a discussion about it NOW, before these problems become quite frequent.  The discussion needs to involve science (what criteria do we use to determine eligibility?), philosophy, and ethics (how do you balance fairness towards transgender athletes with fairness towards women?) Cisgender men are involved as well, but to a lesser extent.

It’s a shame that nobody can discuss this civilly—at least nobody calling for bans or caution—without being slurred as a “transphobe” or even without being physically attacked.

Women like Gaines who have to swim against biological men who identify as women have a special right to express their views and to be heard, as they are the ones who feel the unfairness on the “cis” side. But no, that’s not in the card: people like Gaines, Martina Navratilova, and J. K. Rowling are the ones deemed most reprehensible.

So it goes.

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.

Nation article attacks bans on trans women competing in sports against biological women

March 9, 2023 • 9:30 am

This is one of the most despicable, deplorable, duplicitous, devious and deceptive articles I’ve seen in a long time from any magazine of The Nation‘s reputation.  It’s by Dave Zirin, the sports editor at the magazine, who just proved that he’s not qualified to be the ethics editor at The Nation. 

Ciick below to read it, or find it archived for free here.

The jumping-off point for Zirin’s screed is a new law proposed in Congress:

The GOP is pushing forward a federal ban on trans people playing sports. On Wednesday, we will have the first hearings on the nauseatingly misnamed Protection of Women and Girls in Sports ActGreg Steube, an election denier from Florida, introduced the bill, HR 734, in February. It seeks to amend Title IX—the 1972 federal civil rights law prohibiting sex-based discrimination—to define sex as that which is “based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”

Before we start, I am not in favor of this bill as it’s written. But I’m in favor of much of it pending further research.

I’ve discussed in detail the reason many of us want to take a hard look at the issue of trans women competing in sports against biological women. It’s because trans women, particularly those who transition from biological men to transgender women during or after puberty, retain considerable athletic advantages over biological women—advantages in bone density, body size, muscle mass, upper body strength, grip strength, and other traits. This differential may be lessened by treatment of trans women with testosterone-reducing drugs, but data shows it’s never completely eliminated (go here for my many posts on this issue).

Thus trans women have, on average, an inherent athletic advantage over biological women, an advantage shown by the many trans women athletes who were mediocre competitors on men’s teams but, after transitioning, became champions. Biological women athletes see this differential as unfair, and they’re right.

The reason I don’t favor a complete ban (as the bill proposes) is because there may be some sports in which biological men have no average physiological or bodily advantage over biological women, and in that case there’s no reason on grounds of fairness to ban women from competing with men. I can’t think of any such sports, but ultra-long-distance running may be one. If such sports exist, the bill does create some unfairness.

Alternatively, there may be hormonal or other treatments that create a truly level playing ground for trans women vs. biological women on one hand, and trans men versus biological men on the other. Right now we have no such treatments. The Olympics, for example, used to set upper limits for testosterone levels for competing in women’s events. But the situation is now so muddled, with research showing a persistent athletic advantage in trans women, that the Olympics have basically bailed on its standards, leaving each sport to set its own criteria.

This poses a problem: what to do about trans women’s desire to compete in sports? Nobody wants to tell them that they can’t compete, for that’s quashing what may be a very strong ambition. (In fact, the bill bans them from competing.)

Readers have suggested several solutions. One is a “three-class” system of competition: biological men, biological women, and “other.” This, however, would create a stigma in the third class. Another is to allow anybody to compete in men’s athletics. But that may lead to more injuries in trans men, whose bodies are more liable to injury in rough sports. None of these solutions is perfect.

I don’t know the solution, but I do know that it shouldn’t involve trans women competing against biological women—not until we find a way to level the playing field.

Because of the caveats above, I can’t go along with HR 734’s total ban, but there are good ethical and data-driven arguments about banning trans women, for the time being, from competing in women’s sports. That doesn’t make me a transphobe, a Republican, a misogynist, or a rape-enabler, but Zirin thinks that my views make me all four (see below).

Now, on to his piece:

There are several points to Zirin’s pile of journalistic rubbish, which you can discern from its title and subtitle:

1.) Banning trans athletes (and the main issue is banning trans women from competing against biological women) is transphobic.

2.) Those “transphobes” who favor such bans have the ultimate goal of getting rid of all of Title IX, the American law that bans discrimination on the grounds of sex. In other words, favoring bans on trans athletes is just the first step in allowing discrimination based on sex—either biological sex or assumed sex, as in trangender women.

3.) Those who favor such bans are bedmates of Republicans and misogynists. Zirin’s article traffics heavily in ridiculous forms of guilt by association, like this:

The sports bill is also, tragically, supported by a few prominent women athletes who believe that they are somehow protecting women’s sports by allying with people who not only want to destroy Title IX but also to reelect a misogynist and alleged rapist as president. Strange bedfellows indeed.

and this:

Not surprisingly, the same GOP rallying in lockstep behind this bill is also pushing Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-Ga.) “Protect Children’s Innocence Act,” which would make it a felony for doctors to provide gender-affirming health care to transgender minors. That is also going to be taken up this week. The GOP establishment is all in. The bills are strongly supported by the Conservative Political Action Conference and its leader, Matt Schlapp, who is accused of sexually assaulting a male staffer.

You don’t have to be in favor of the entire bill HR 734 to favor a provisional ban on transsexual women from competing in women’s sports, and you don’t have to favor the bill’s complete ban on trans men competing in men’s sports. The latter decision is up to the individual sports associations and to the trans women themselves, based not on athletic advantages but on the likelihood of injury. To claim that this position makes you a Republican, a transphobe, or a supporter of “misogynist and alleged rapist” Trump is worse than stupid. I am not a misogynist, I’m a registered Democrat, and I despise Trump.

Once again Chase Strangio, a trans man who’s the Deputy Director for Transgender Justice and staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) weighs in with his bile. The man is a blot on the ACLU, for he’s a lawyer who stomps on the rights of biological women, women who would get athletically trounced were Strangio’s efforts to bear fruit. Further, he once favored the banning of Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage. Can an ACLU lawyer have any credibility if he favors book banning?  (I have to add here that the Freedom from Religion Foundation, of which I’m an honorary director, also favors allowing trans women to compete against biological women since they see this as a church-state issue. I have complained about this stand, and it will be interesting to see how they come down on future bills.)

Here are some of Strangio’s misguided ideas, claiming that favoring a moratorium on trans women competing against biological women in sports is nothing other than transphobia:

Chase Strangio, an ACLU attorney who has been fighting these laws, told me, “The introduction of HR 734 is both a troubling reflection of where we are in the national landscape of attacks on trans people, particularly trans youth, and an ominous sign of what is to come. With so many threats to women’s sports, what a sad commentary on our society that the action being taken in Congress is one that targets a subset of women and girls—those who are trans—and singles them out for discrimination.”

He went on to say, “If we are to fight back against the many threats to bodily autonomy that we are seeing in state legislatures and in Congress, we need a meaningful and coordinated resistance to legislation like HR 734, and we need to challenge the notion that targeting and demonizing trans people protects anyone.”

Yes, perhaps some supporters of the bill are transphobes, but many who call for such bans on a provisional basis are simply doing so on the grounds of fairness to women, not hatred of trans people. Strangio is either too dumb to see that, or, more likely, is so bound up in transgender activism that he fails to see (as J. K. Rowling does see) that those rights sometimes conflict with the rights of cisgender women.

I repeat Zirin’s paragraph from above:

The sports bill is also, tragically, supported by a few prominent women athletes who believe that they are somehow protecting women’s sports by allying with people who not only want to destroy Title IX but also to reelect a misogynist and alleged rapist as president. Strange bedfellows indeed.

That’s guilt by association, pure and simple. Does Zirin not see that many prominent women athletes who oppose trans women’s participation against biological women are NOT “rapist protectors” and Trumpites?  In fact, in the next sentence Zirin says so:

One Olympic gold medalist who supports a trans bans and has written upon it extensively is the swimmer Nancy Hogshead-Makar, who founded the organization Champion Women. As Dr. Johanna Mellis, cohost of the End of Sports Podtweeted to me (and I reprint with permission): “Enraging how several cishet [cisgender, heterosexual] white women like NHM [Nancy Hogshead–Makar] who ostensibly vote Dem and believe in abortion rights are trans panic-ers and boosting their platform off such bigotry.”

Another women supporting trans women’s sports bans is Martina Navratilova, a Democrat, supporter of LGBTQ rights, Trump hater, and donor to the Democratic Party. She’s not “cishet”, either, as she’s gay. Funny they left her out. . .

Below are some of Zirin’s histrionics.

I guarantee that these very forces will at some point call for Title IX to be thrown out. No one should give these people one droplet of credibility. Anyone who cares about women’s athletics should be aghast to see Title IX, some of the most important legislation for gender equality ever produced by this country, used as a cudgel to keep trans kids off the playing field. They should call that what it is: an obscenity. Either Title IX is a shining example of inclusion or it is not. For it to be used months after its 50th anniversary as a tool for bigots is the true perversion in this story.

No, I will not call for Title IX to be thrown out, and neither will our.many readers who favor some sports bans but also oppose discrimination on the basis of sex. (I’m speaking about biological sex here, for I cannot bring myself to agree that “trans women are women” in every single sense.)

The paragraph above is so miguided that it’s not even wrong. If you care about women’s athletics, the best way to preserve them as a going concern is to support Title IX for nearly all purposes, but not to allow trans women on teams comprising biological women. To do otherwise is to doom women’s sports, particularly because some states and officials (including Joe Biden’s administration) don’t think any hormonal or surgical modification of a biological male need be done to allow that male to compete as a woman. All that’s needed is that the male claim self-identify as having a female gender and (sometimes) to live as a woman for a limited period. In other words, some states and laws allow unmodified biological men to compete against biological women. Given the data, in what world is that fair?

Zirin’s ending is particularly ironic:

We need to be willing to discuss any issue that may invariably arise with transgender athletes and the sexual binary that defines sports in this country. It could be an exciting moment to reimagine how we organize young people to play sports, especially at the youth level. Instead, the issue has become yet another cleaver by the right—with minimal resistance from muted Democrats—used to distract, divide, and demonize. Republicans are not stopping with sports in their project of trans eradication. Either we stand with our trans friends, or we lose them. Either we stand with our trans friends, or Title IX will at some point be a memory. Either we stand with our trans friends, or we’re next.

What a baseless assertion! We can stand with our trans friends in allowing them every basic human right except for a handful, excluding the “right” of trans women to be put in women’s prisons, to be rape counselors, or to compete against biological women. But unless you buy Zirin (and Strangio’s) whole hog, you can’t buy any pork at all. It’s a Manichean view of the issue.

And what’s most ironic is that although Zirin claims to favor open discussion of this issue, he really doesn’t, for his guilt-by-association ploy puts many who favor discussion automatically in the same class as misogynists, transphobes, rapist-protectors, and Trump supporters. How can you discuss something when you’re demonized by the opposition at the outset? But there’s really no reason why favoring Title IX should automatically make you support the right of self-identified women to assume every single right of biological women.


I’ve now used up my free access to The Nation, and can’t see new comments (they aren’t of course archived), but last night I was glad to see that that most readers weren’t buying Zirin’s claims. Here are two that I copied, and if you have free access to his article check out any new comments:


Lastly, what I reject most about this woke article is rather than encourage debate, it rejects debate as if only neo-nazis would dare challenge any part of the trans narrative.


. . . I would have been grateful to see an engagement with the arguments of Nancy Hogshead-Makar rather than just a summary dismissal of her. Many, perhaps most, of the people who normally support progressive causes have been confused by current transgender perspectives and, in the course of seeking to become better informed have not had explanation, but vilification. A spirit of intimidation has stifled the dialogue so that a fear of being recklessly labeled transphobic has intimidated questioners into silence — a silence that is far from persuasion. The fascists have been only too happy to fill that vacuum. They are gaining ground. The Dave Zirins need to own responsibility for that.


Argentina wins!

December 18, 2022 • 12:02 pm

Well, that was a squeaker. When Argentina led 2-0 at the half, I thought it was over, but it’s never over at the World Cup until it’s over. It went to two overtime periods, and then to penalty kicks:

And Messi finally has what eluded him in a fantastic career: a World Cup.

It was a fantastic game, with Argentina dominating in the first half but Mbappé leading his team back in the second. When it came down to penalty kicks, I figured Argentina would win, as they have so much experience (even in this tournament) with these kicks. Sure enough, all their kicks went in, and after the fourth it was over .


One Love

November 25, 2022 • 1:00 pm

by Greg Mayer

For all sorts of soccer reasons, staging the World Cup in Qatar was and is a bad idea, but that’s not what I want to bring up here.

As was widely reported earlier this week, Harry Kane, the England captain, had planned to wear a “One Love” armband as a statement about human rights, especially with regard to homosexuality. FIFA then threatened to yellow card (i.e., penalize) any player wearing the armband, because in Qatar homosexuality is a crime. Under this threat, Kane, and the other European team captains with similar plans, relented.

I don’t know that there was any such connection in the minds of the Dutch national football officials who started the “One Love” campaign, but I Immediately thought of the Bob Marley song “One Love,” which begins

One love, one heartLet’s get together and feel all right

Since Kane and the other European captains can’t express the thought on the pitch, I’ve been doing so by listening to the song, and thought I’d invite WEIT readers to listen along.

One Atlantic article walks back another

October 2, 2022 • 9:23 am

On September 17, Maggie Mertens published an article in The Atlantic, “Separating sports by sex doesn’t make sense“, which I wrote about here two days thereafter. Mertens adduced a number of dubious arguments for her argument that in “youth sports”, which includes sports through high school (students aged up to about 18), there should be no separate men’s and women’s teams, but the sexes should be combined. My criticisms included Mertens’s failure to distinguish sex from gender, her claim that—against all the data—men don’t have average biological advantages over women in athletic performance, her reliance on anecdotes instead of data, and the unworkability of her “solution”, which involves grouping all athletes together in teams whose members have roughly equal abilities.

Mertens’s article was widely criticized, including, as you see below, by Jesse Singal and Martina Navatilova.

Perhaps the criticism—or The Atlantic‘s realization that it had commissioned a wrongheaded article—made them commission a new rebuttal to Mertens’s piece, which you can read below for free by clicking on the screenshot. The author is Steve Magness, identified as “a performance coach and sports scientist” and “the author of Do Hard Things: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of Real Toughness.”

First off, this article isn’t about whether transsexual athletes should compete against cissexual ones. That heated debate he leaves for the future. Nor is he arguing that men’s sports should draw more attention than women’s, nor that men should be paid more; in fact, he argues against that. His argument is simply that Mertens’s solution of mixing males and females in school sports is wrongheaded, at least for athletes who have gone through puberty.

Magness’s point rests on the simple acknowledgment that, on average, puberty gives men substantial athletic advantages against women—advantages not seen before either sex undergoes puberty. The higher levels of testosterone (a steroid hormone) accompanying male puberty causes the development of athletic differences between men and women, differences that give men a performance average of 10% or more over women—even higher in strength sports like weightlifting.

Why is this important to recognize? For several reasons that Magness mentions at the end (see below), with the foremost being that if one allows cisgender men and women to have mixed teams, as Mertens suggested, the men would eventually nose out the women if teams are assembled by performance.  And this is unfair to biological (cis) women.

Magness on the data:

When looking at elite runners—whether sprinting 100 meters or racing many miles—once athletes hit physical maturity, the best men have anywhere from a 9 to a 12 percent advantage over the best women. A significant gap can be seen in cycling, swimming, speed skating, high-jumping, and a variety of other athletic feats. The gap is even larger in sports that depend highly on strength. For example, when looking at elite weight lifters in the same weight class, the performance gap is about 24 to 30 percent.

It’s important to note a few caveats. First, most of the best research is on sports that are easily quantifiable. For example, there’s no way to directly compare the skill levels of elite tennis players to measure for tiny performance differences unless they play one another. What we know is that the less a sport relies on speed, power, or endurance, and the more it relies on skill, the smaller the gap is. In sports like shooting and archery, the difference between men and women is negligible at best. Second, the performance gap of course doesn’t mean that all men will triumph over all women all the time. My comparatively unathletic brother would get beaten by thousands of women in a mile-long race. And if my wife showed up to a local turkey trot, she’d likely decimate all the men. Third, because there is significant overlap between males and females in performance, female outliers can shine, particularly in niche sports with a small number of competitors (e.g., ultrarunning).

But at the top of the top of the athletic world, in widely played sports with elite coaching, the gap between the sexes seems almost insurmountable. Take the queen of track and field, Allyson Felix. The 11-time Olympic medalist’s best 400-meter time ever is 49.26. In just the 2022 season, that would have put her 689th on the boys’ high-school performance list.

None of this is meant to disparage the phenomenal women athletes at the top of their game. But if we stopped dividing sport by sex, elite women’s sport as we know it could cease to exist. We might miss out on Megan Rapinoe at the World Cup or the spectacle of Sydney McLaughlin effortlessly gliding over hurdle after hurdle. Acknowledging the performance differential should encourage us to do everything possible to make sure female athletes can keep competing at these levels.

He also considers whether the sex differences in performance are “sociological”, and can be ascribed to things like sexism leading to differential training or investment, and for several reasons rejects those as the primary cause of sex differences—though perhaps a part of the cause. The data show that in the past 30 years, despite an improvement in women’s training and a lessening of sexism, the sex gap in five sports—cycling, weightlifting, swimming, speed skating, and track and field—remains. Though performance in both sexes is improving, they’re improving at roughly the same rate, so that the puberty-induced gap has stayed about the same.

I think this is a fair and evenhanded piece, as it takes pains to give the caveats and to avoid denigrating women’s sports, which shouldn’t be denigrated. And he also gives the advantages of acknowledging the post-puberty data, which raises several questions whose answers are driven by both data and ethics:

The upside of acknowledging that sex differences in performance exist is that we can discuss the vital, knotty debates that emerge from this biology. For example, would creating more coed sporting opportunities before, say, age 10, keep girls in sport longer? How should schools and clubs handle a young female athlete who wants to play football even though there’s no girls’ team? Should we get rid of sex-based divisions in sports like shooting, where the performance gap is minimal? We certainly need to figure out better answers for trans athletes and people like Caster Semenya, who, because she has differences of sexual development, is allowed to compete in the 5K but not the 800-meter race.

I find the first three questions especially interesting, because they are the easiest to answer. If there is no difference in sports ability between boys and girls before puberty, why not allow mixed teams? And surely there are some women who would qualify to be on men’s school teams; why not let them in? Finally, if the average performance of men and women in shooting is about the same (I’m not sure if there’s a gap), why not let the sexes compete against each other, even at “elite” levels like the Olympics?

Issues like those of transsexual athletes, or people with disorders of sex development, pose harder questions, and I have no solution save create an “other” category, or have two categories: “biological men + transsexual and DSD athletes” on the one hand and “biological women” on the other. That, of course, has its own downside, including stigmatization, but to me the increased fairness to the many cisgender women who compete in sport outweighs other considerations.

To Magness, though, all questions must begin with the admission of a puberty-induced athletic advantage of males over females. Why do people resist what is such an obvious answer. Because many “progressive” ideologues don’t want to believe that there are evolved biological differences between the sexes. Ergo, the differences we see are due entirely to socialization.

Here’  the salutary results Magness sees in admitting the truth (note: he and his wife were both runners, but she competed better against other women than he did against other men):

To solve these questions, we need to first accept the premise that puberty can create unequal sporting ability. Doing so doesn’t mean that we stop fighting inequality or dismiss tricky edge cases. It actually should free us from arguing over what should be a noncontroversial claim. We can then shift our focus to making sure women have the space, resources, and opportunities to show their talents. We can acknowledge that though I might have run faster at my peak, my wife’s performance and achievements are undoubtedly more impressive. We can stop judging female athletes against their male counterparts and enjoy their athleticism on its own accord.

Given that Magness opposes mixed men’s and women’s teams after puberty, he would surely oppose something that the ACLU and the Biden Administration has supported: the right of medically untreated men and women to compete with members of the sex to which they say they belong. This would result in medically untreated biological men who identify as women competing against biological women, and only a witless ideologue could support that.

The only question I have about this article is this: how did it come to be? Did The Atlantic realize it screwed up by publishing Mertens’s piece and asked someone to write a rebuttal? Or did it commission both pieces to show both sides of a “controversy”? If so, Magness has the better arguments by far.

Now you might say that this is all a tempest in a teapot, but it’s not. The number of adolescent men who identify as women is increasing rapidly (and women who identify as men even faster), and that teapot is going to get pretty big pretty fast.

Look to the evidence, but don’t gloss over it if you don’t like it

September 30, 2022 • 12:20 pm

I’m not going to dissect this entire article from Nature; I’m too dispirited about how it, its American equivalent Science, and, indeed, nearly all scientific journals I read, are acting, tinting their science for ideology. You can read the article by clicking on the screenshot below, but I want to highlight just one of its assertions.

The author identifies himself, and it’s clear that he’s somewhat of a trans activist:

I am founding co-editor of the journal TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, and the author of a book on how sex classification is regulated. It’s naive to think that politics and social mores have no place in lawmaking, but seldom has policy been so disconnected from science and data. The rights of trans people, including myself, have been weaponized in a culture war.

There’s nothing wrong with being a “trans activist” if you’re fighting genuine wrongs inflicted on transgender or transsexual people. And to Currah’s credit, he does claim that one must use real data if you’re making assertions. If you claim that having transsexuals use the bathrooms of the sex they identify with” is a harmful act, then you have to show it, defining what “harm” really means.

Now that’s a tough call in many cases, as it involves people’s feelings, philosophy, “fairness”, and morality. But there’s one area where claims can be adjudicated with data, and that’s sports. The issue is, and has always been, whether transsexual females, born as biological males, should compete in athletics against biological women. My own feeling, which is based on data as well as on attendant feelings of fairness, is that such competitions are unfair to biological women who want to do sport. That’s because the data show that trans women, even after hormone treatment, retain athletic advantages that accrue during male puberty, making them more likely to defeat “cis” (non-transgender) women. And of course I reject entirely the view—promulgated by, among others, the Biden Administration, the state of Connecticut, and the ACLU—that men who simply identify as women, and have had no medical intervention, should be allowed to compete on women’s teams.

But here’s the bit of Currah’s article that seems to involve a bit of dissimulation (my emphasis)

The gap between research-informed, reasoned debate and gut-feeling absolutism is just as obvious in sport. In June, Sebastian Coe, president of World Athletics, declared that “biology trumps gender” when hinting at moves to exclude transgender women from track and field sports.

Invoking biology is a rhetorical move, not a data-driven conclusion. It’s also wrong. From a medical perspective, sex is not the uncomplicated either–or proposition that many laypeople imagine it to be.

Those arguing for total bans on trans girls and women competing as girls and women rely on studies comparing the athletic performance of cisgender men with that of cisgender women. But that’s not an apt comparison. A better one would be between transgender and cisgender women. Sports researcher Joanna Harper at Loughborough University, UK, is one of a number of scientists who have found that hormone therapy significantly reduces athletic advantages (J. Harper et alBr. J. Sports Med.55, 865–872; 2021). More research like this could clarify how hormones and other factors affect athletic performance. That understanding should guide policy.

And indeed, it’s true, as you might expect, that hormone treatment of biological men transitioning to women reduces measures of strength and muscle mass related to athletic performance. It would be surprising if it didn’t! But the question is not whether there’s a significant reduction, but whether hormone treatment roughly equalizes the athletic abilities of cisgender and transgender women?  (By the way, it is fair to compare the performance of cisgender men with that of cisgender women if you’re arguing that medically untreated men who identify as women should be allowed to compete in women’s sports.)

And no, hormone treatment never asymptotes at athletic equality.  For the article above, you can see this merely from its abstract (my emphasis)L

Twenty-four studies were identified and reviewed. Transwomen experienced significant decreases in all parameters measured, with different time courses noted. After 4 months of hormone therapy, transwomen have Hgb/HCT levels equivalent to those of cisgender women. After 12 months of hormone therapy, significant decreases in measures of strength, LBM [lean body mass] and muscle area are observed. The effects of longer duration therapy (36 months) in eliciting further decrements in these measures are unclear due to paucity of data. Notwithstanding, values for strength, LBM and muscle area in transwomen remain above those of cisgender women, even after 36 months of hormone therapy.

At the end of the paper one of Harper et al’s conclusion is this:

  • It is possible that transwomen competing in sports may retain strength advantages over cisgender women, even after 3 years of hormone therapy.

So yes, strength, muscle mass, and and muscle area are decreased by hormone therapy. But look at the last sentence in bold: equality is not achieved, even after 3 years of hormone treatment (far longer than the Olympics used to recommend). Why did Currah say that physiological and morphological traits related to athletic ability decline with hormone treatment, but leave out the critical result they never get to the levels seen in cisgender women?

In February I posted about twp related articles not cited by Currah (one study here and the other here), both reaching the same conclusion as the Harper et al. study: changes that occur during male puberty that give biological men athletic advantages over biological women can be reduced by hormone therapy in transitioning biological men, but never decrease (at least not over 2-3 years of observation) to levels seen in biological women.

Of course, more research needs to be done, for sample sizes are small. But the data so far show that changes in male puberty cannot be effaced with hormones, eliminating any athletic advantage of transgender women.

Now what to do about these data is something I won’t discuss at length; my view is that the data already show enough to bar hormonally treated transgender women (and untreated men who identify as women) from competing in women’s sports.  And you can’t gloss over that data by saying, “well, yes, hormone treatment does reduce the athletic ability of transgender women.” That, after all, is not the right question.

If you haven’t read my earlier post, I recommend doing so, as well as looking at the three papers linked above.

The Atlantic: We shouldn’t separate school sports by sex

September 19, 2022 • 1:15 pm

Matthew called my attention to a tweet that highlighted this article. I was disturbed to read it, because it’s full of half-truths, distortions, and false claims that I didn’t expect in a magazine of the The Atlantic’s quality. The author, Maggie Mertens, is a writer and journalist living in Seattle.

First, what is Mertens calling for? Apparently for an end to the segregation of “school sports” and “youth sports” by sex.

So what are “youth sports”—do they extend past puberty? Because if they do, then you’ll have to deal with the issue of the differences in bone, muscles, grip strength, and other athletic-related traits that arise men and women after puberty.  Since Mertens doesn’t give an age range, and doesn’t mention the word “puberty” in her piece, I’ll take “school sports” to mean sports from elementary until the end of high school: that is, from first through 12th grades, or roughly between the ages of six and eighteen.  (Mertens implies below that high-school sports are included). In women puberty occurs between ages eight and thirteen, and in men between nine and fourteen, so nearly all high-school sports (8th or 9th through 12th grades) will involve youths who have already gone through puberty.

That means that the biological differences between men and women (Mertens attributes some of them to socialization—training—which may play a minor role) will already be manifesting themselves in the most widely-followed brand of youth sports: high-school athletics. Now I have no opinion on whether sports should be segregated by sex before the participants reach puberty, as I don’t know a good study of strength, muscle, and other relevant differences at that time. But we know a great deal about biological differences that, mediated by hormones, occur after puberty, giving males a performance advantage in virtually every sport except for very long-distance running. (I’m not sure about sports like shooting or archery, but am referring to ones that are heavily dependent on musculature, mass, speed, and strength.) I have discussed these in detail in previous posts. 

Here are a few bit of Mertens’s piece I object to. Her quotes are indented, and since I’ve given evidence for biological differences before, I won’t repeat them here. But you can easily Google those differences or click on the link just above.

A.) Mertens constantly conflates “sex” and “gender.”  The issue is one of biological sex: men versus women. There are just two of these, while gender can come in many varieties because they are social roles.  Nevertheless, Mertens keeps using “gender” when she should use “sex”. After all, sex is the issue, not whether people who identify as binary should compete against one sex or another. The exception, of course, is if you consider “transsexual” a gender role, and in that case the issue has always been whether transsexual women who have had medical interventions during their transition should compete against biological women. (There should be no issue about biological males who claim that they are really of female gender should compete against biological females. They shouldn’t.) Few girls should have any medical treatment until they’ve gone through puberty, or so I think. My emphasis in the quote below:

School sports are typically sex-segregated, and in America some of them have even come to be seen as either traditionally for boys or traditionally for girls: Think football, wrestling, field hockey, volleyball. However, it’s becoming more common for these lines to blur, especially as Gen Zers are more likely than members of previous generations to reject a strict gender binary altogether. Maintaining this binary in youth sports reinforces the idea that boys are inherently bigger, faster, and stronger than girls in a competitive setting—a notion that’s been challenged by scientists for years.

No, it’s the sex binary we’re talking about. If we’re talking about gender, there may be a gender bimodality, with one mode at “male gender” and the other at “female gender”, but it’s more bimodal rather than binary because a fair number of youths assume other genders. Her statement in bold is about sex, not gender. And, for post-puberty youths, it’s just wrong.

B.) Men don’t have average biological advantages over women in athletic performance. Scientific research says that for virtually every trait you can measure after puberty that affects athletic performance, males have more of what you need to succeed than do women. That’s why we segregate sports by sex in the first place, for to do so would be unfair to women, who would almost never win in mixed competitions. Granted, some women are athletically superior to some males, but we’re talking averages, and the distributions are in general so widely separated that were the Olympics always a mixed-sex competition among school-aged athletes, you’d almost never see a woman on the podium, for that’s where people stand who are in the upper tails of the distributions.

Mertens says this:

Decades of research have shown that sex is far more complex than we may think. And though sex differences in sports show advantages for men, researchers today still don’t know how much of this to attribute to biological difference versus the lack of support provided to women athletes to reach their highest potential. “Science is increasingly showing how sex is dynamic; it has multiple aspects and also shifts; for example, social experiences can actually change levels of sex-related hormones like testosterone in our bodies in a second-to-second and month-to-month way!”

First she admits what she denies above: that men have no inherent advantages over women in athletics. But she achieves this dissonance by saying that the differences in strength, speed, musculature, and so on might be largely attributable to differential training, a form of socialization.  I would argue, however, that, given the uniformity of results despite big differences in training of a given sex among schools, nearly all the athletic advantages map to biology and not training. The variation and “dynamic” nature of sex baffles me. Yes, testosterone levels may fluctuate, but not in a way that would average out the huge difference between males and females after puberty.

C.) Mertens’s dependence on anecdotes. Here’s Mertens’s argument for NOT separating school sports by sex:

The insistence on separating sports teams strictly by sex is backwards, argues Michela Musto, an assistant sociology professor at the University of British Columbia who has studied the effect of the gender binary on students and young athletes. “Part of the reason why we have this belief that boys are inherently stronger than girls, and even the fact that we believe that gender is a binary, is because of sport itself, not the other way around,” she told me by phone. The strict sex segregation we’ve instilled in sports at all levels gives the impression that men and women have completely different capabilities, but in reality, she said, the relationship between sex and athletic capability is never so cut-and-dried. “There are some boys who also could get really hurt if they were competing against other boys in contact sports.” Researchers have noted for years that there may even be more diversity in athletic performance within a sex than between the sexes. One recent small study in Norway found no innate sex difference when it came to youth-soccer players’ technical skills. The researchers hypothesized that the gap they did find between girls and boys was likely due to socialization, not biology.

Check out the Norway study, based on 16 men and 17 women, all past puberty (high school age). The skills analyzed were passing and receiving the ball (not diverse “technical skills,” as Mertens implies). But you don’t have to be a genius to know that success in soccer is dependent on speed and strength as well, and shooting as well as passing and receiving. Her reliance on this study as a reason to implement mixed-sex teams in school athletics is duplicitous.

D.) If we have mixed sex teams, how will we decide who gets to participate? Currently, at least in high school, your participation on an athletic team is based on your ability and achievements. If you did that for, say high school football or basketball, the teams would wind up nearly all male. Women would be disappointed non-participants—unless there was a quota system, a kind of athletic equity. When I tried out for Little League baseball, I was immediately cut from the the tryouts because I couldn’t handle grounders; I lacked the ability to play at even that level of sport. (I still remember the hurt I felt, and how I had to hide my tears from my dad, who was himself a great baseball player.)

E.) Mixed-sex teams are unfair to (biological women). Title IX assures women equal access to sports, as it should. Mixed-sex teams, if put together on ability, at least after puberty, would deny women that access. Further, Mertens seems to miss an important reason for separating male from female sports in schools.  Emphasis below is mine:

While the need to separate athletes by sex is still held firmly by many as a way to protect girls and women from harm, many people advocate for moving to a more integrated and inclusive approach. The Women’s Sports Foundation, founded by the tennis legend Billie Jean King, offered guidance on how girls and boys can equitably compete with and against each other: “If the skill, size and strength of any participant, female or male, compared to others playing on the team creates the potential of a hazardous environment, participation may be limited on the basis of these factors, rather than the sex of the participant.” In other words, if a girl on the football team needs to be assessed for her size and strength for safety reasons, so should all of the boys.

I still maintain this creates unfairness for female athletes given the biological differences between the sexes. It would still exclude women disproportionately from participation. But what I object to most strongly is the first sentence.  The separation of the sexes is, I think, not mainly to protect women from harm (really? in tennis, high-jumping, running, snowboarding, ski jumping, and a gazillion other sports?). Rather, it’s to allow women to participate and excel, which wouldn’t be nearly as possible on mixed-sex teams.

I should add that Mertens does cite some women participating on men’s teams in high-school sports:

But some young people seem intent on challenging the binary sports system. In 2018, according to data from the National Federation of State High School Associations, 2,404 girls played high-school tackle football, up from fewer than 1,000 in 2008. Around the country, the number of girls on wrestling teams increased to 28,447 in the 2019–20 season from just 4,975 in 2005. In 2019, Trista Blasz, a then-12-year-old wrestling phenom, was denied her request to join Lancaster High School’s junior-varsity boys’ team through the New York guidelines.

But note that this is for women playing on traditional men’s teams, while the issue is biological men playing on traditional women’s teams. I have no objections to having teams labeled “women” and “other” to deal with high-functioning women athletes, or some have suggested a third, intermediate category. But that has never been a solution for gender activists.

F.) Mertens’s “solution” is unworkable. Here’s what she envisions:

A different youth-sports world is possible. Musto has observed a swim team in California, for instance, whose athletes are separated by ability rather than sex; it has changed how the kids view one another. “It wasn’t a big deal if they had to share lanes with one another or they were competing against one another during practice. Gender wasn’t the primary thing that was shaping the perceptions of who was a good athlete or not,” she said. But as long as laws and general practice of youth sports remain rooted in the idea that one sex is inherently inferior, young athletes will continue to learn and internalize that harmful lesson.

For one thing, I don’t see youth sports as “rooted in the idea that females are inferior”. They are rooted in the fact that, at least after puberty, men and women are different, and different in big ways with little overlap. That difference mandates separation of the sexes on grounds of fairness, a fairness that allows women who want to do athletics to have a chance to compete and excel.

But seriously, how could you have basketball or football or soccer divided up by ability? That would create many different (and much smaller) teams within a school. How many football teams can you have? And, for most but not all sports (wrestling, archery, and individual rather than team tennis could be exceptions), this just isn’t practical.

Finally, I’d like to know what Mertens thinks about athletics beyond high school: college and professional sports. Why, given her assertions about biological equality of sexes and the effects of socialization, shouldn’t those be subject to her suggestions as well?

Read the article (it’s not long) and feel free to disagree below.