I Want Civil Rights, They Want to Talk About Sports

It was a warm afternoon on Fort Myer, just south of Arlington Cemetery, when my Dad said, “Living with you, it’s like that movie The Fly.”

For the uninitiated, David Cronenberg’s 1986 sci-fi classic tells the graphic story of Dr. Seth Brundel, an ambitious scientist whose carelessness warps his body, twisting him into an inhuman abomination that’s put to death at the end of the film.

When I got over my shock at being compared to a movie monster, a part of me felt like my Dad wasn’t too far off the mark. I was no movie monster, but my body was really changing.

I’m a trans woman, and two months prior I had started hormone replacement therapy. A heavy dose of spironolactone made me hungry for pickles while neutralizing my testosterone, and a mild dose of estrogen had just barely started my second puberty at 23.

My body hair was thinning out. My skin was softer. I smelled different. I’d gotten used to running 10 miles a few times a week, but I found that my endurance drastically fell as my body adjusted to a new chemical normal.

Six years later, my body and my life as a transitioned woman are drastically different from my pre-transition life in a testosterone-dominant body. I celebrate these changes. They’re the bedrock of a life that’s happier, more fulfilling, and more satisfying than anything I could’ve imagined as a miserable teenager suffering from gender dysphoria.

So it’s honestly infuriating that Republican politicians literally refuse to see reality when it comes to trans bodies like mine.

The Senate recently held hearings on the Equality Act, a bill that would extend basic civil rights protections to Queer people in housing, employment, education, and other arenas of public life. It’s a popular idea — support tops 70 percent, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

It’s so popular that many people assume a federal law like this already exists. But it doesn’t. So in dozens of states, it’s perfectly legal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Ignoring this opportunity for the bipartisan progress they regularly demand, Republicans have chosen to drive up a furor over school sports. They argue that trans girls have an unfair biological advantage over their cisgender classmates. They seem to think this is reason enough to hold back vital civil rights legislation.

In support of this claim, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi cited data comparing the athletic performance of cisgender men and cisgender women. Yet she omitted data that included trans people — who, like me, often see their athletic performance change during transition.

The reason for this omission is obvious: there is no scientific proof that trans women have a substantive biological advantage over cis women in sports.

Trans people who undergo appropriate medical care have professionally competed in their appropriate gender categories for decades. If conservatives were correct, one would expect that trans athletes would dominate their fields.

But since the International Olympic Committee created guidelines for participation by trans athletes in 2003, no trans athlete has won a single Olympic Medal. Sadly for us, we are merely human.

But why does the biggest question about this monumental civil rights legislation revolve around, of all things, high school sports?

Because Republicans are leveraging public ignorance about trans bodies to deny Queer Americans basic civil rights. They’re using girls’ sports as an excuse to vote down popular legislation that many Queer Americans desperately need to keep their jobs or homes.

Republicans like to paint trans women as monsters that will assault wives and daughters. These same Republicans voted against the most recent re-authorization of the Violence against Women Act. These same Republicans gave staunch support to a former president who bragged about committing sexual assault.

Perhaps it’s time we figured out who the real monsters are.

Robin Savannah Carver is a development associate at the Institute for Policy Studies.