One of the most influential organizations in the sports world made a controversial decision on the issue of allowing transgender women in competitions, and frankly, it’s a stupid, short-sighted one. In a statement released on Thursday, World Athletics—the governing body for track and field events—announced that beginning March 31 it would ban “transgender athletes who have been through male puberty from female World Rankings competition.” This ruling will keep transgender women out of international track events like the World Championships and the Olympics.
In its statement, the organization says that “there are currently no transgender athletes competing internationally,” which leaves me to wonder: why make this decision now? If you’ve been reading the news, it’s no secret that Republicans and their supporters have mounted an aggressive anti-LGBTQ+ agenda. They’ve introduced legislation banning drag shows and drag story time. They’ve also gone out of their way to limit or strip protections for trans youth, especially transgender women and girls in sports. So, without any evidence that it needed to be done, World Athletics just handed all these people a certified reason for their discrimination. Conservatives will absolutely use this as “proof” that they need to keep transgender youth out of sports.
World Athletics claims that this is about prioritizing “fairness and the integrity of the female competition before inclusion,” however, it also states that there is “no athletics-specific evidence of the impact these athletes would have on the fairness of female competition in athletics.” You don’t get to claim this is about fairness and integrity, but in the same breath also say you have no evidence that including transgender athletes will adversely affect competition. Do you understand that excluding them just for who they are is totally unfair?
“Decisions are always difficult when they involve conflicting needs and rights between different groups, but we continue to take the view that we must maintain fairness for female athletes above all other considerations,” World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We will be guided in this by the science around physical performance and male advantage which will inevitably develop over the coming years. As more evidence becomes available, we will review our position, but we believe the integrity of the female category in athletics is paramount.”
So, this is just a temporary ban and you could change your mind down the road? OK, but what about all the trans kids who will be impacted in the meantime? The organization says it will put together a working group to explore the situation for a year. And again, I ask: How will that help the kids who are kicked off their teams and excluded from activities? I understand that World Athletics is concerned with maintaining competitive integrity on an international level. However, there’s no way they didn’t see how this could be used against young people. competing at the collegiate, high school and middle school level. We’re not talking about kids trying to go to the Olympics, this is about young people who just want to play sports and find a place to belong.
Per CNN, in response to the decision, Hudson Taylor, founder and executive director of advocacy group Athlete Ally, expressed his disappointment at World Athletics making a political decision without understanding the consequences.
“We are beyond devastated to see World Athletics succumbing to political pressure instead of core principles of inclusion, fairness and non-discrimination for transgender athletes and athletes with intersex variations,” Taylor said.
He also explained how if the group was really concerned with helping female athletes it would tackle the real problems in women’s sports: “unequal pay, rampant sexual abuse and harassment, lack of women in leadership and inequities in resources for women athletes.” He’s not wrong. It feels like World Athletics chose this issue so it could avoid having hard discussions about the others.
Transgender youth are among the most vulnerable groups in this country. For the governing body of a major sport to take this stance is misguided, unnecessary, and most of all, cruel.
On social media, other advocates and allies posted about their anger at the decision: