Recently, in USA Today, Connecticut high school student Chelsea Mitchell shared her experience competing against transgender athletes. She said the experience made her feel that her body isn't good enough and that no matter how hard she works, she's unlikely to succeed because she's a woman.
I'm an athlete, a feminist, and an advocate for equality in equal measure. However, as sympathetic as I am to transgender rights, women like Chelsea Mitchell, whether in school sports or professional, shouldn't have to compete with biological males for athletic opportunities. Genetics and identity are at an impasse when it comes to transgender women's participation in athletics. It's the only objection of merit regarding acceptance, inclusion and equality, and I don't claim to know what the resolution is.
My values are at odds with one another. Transgender women deserve their space at the starting line, but it's inherently anti-feminist to allow genetically determined males to compete in women's athletics when doing so harms the chances of other women receiving recognition for their feats and diminishes their accomplishments.
It's an interesting and challenging position I hold to state something pro-feminist while simultaneously likely considered un-woke regarding genetics. It isn't anti-transgender to state the obvious, and the obvious is that taking the wrong position on this matter harms women from getting a fair, equal shot at thriving.
The current rhetoric on the issue is far too black and white, absolutist, and forgive me, binary. This isn't a with-or-without us stance. If the reality of gender recognizes fluidity, the discourse should be the same. Yet, many believe that to be pro-transgender, you can't have objections. But I'm here with an objection, and I will ardently argue that it doesn't make me anti-transgender. If we don't carefully consider the consequences of unequivocally supporting one value, other values come into jeopardy – it's a careful balancing act.
This isn't about locker rooms, restrooms, employment, the military, or anything else. I'm supportive of transgender rights in every realm of society until we enter the world of sports. It's a sliver of an exception to my otherwise wholehearted support. There’s a reason why there's a men's winner and a women's winner in everything from local races to the Olympic games. Women in sports shouldn't have to sacrifice their hard work and opportunity in the name of equality for transgender women.
There's vulnerability and uncertainty in a difficult subject that should cause both sides to consider a new perspective. I'm not siding with the bigots, but I'm unwilling to take an absolutist position that results in inequality for female athletes.
I'm hesitant to take this stance publicly because I fear some will neglect to appreciate the complexity and nuance of the topic and throw stones at me for my "ignorance," "intolerance," or supposed "white girl privilege."
And yet, I'm stating my objection and drawing the line because I know that being an ally and ardent supporter doesn't require dogmatic uniformity nor prohibit the exploration of complex topics. We must consider – always – the consequences of our actions, no matter how well-intentioned they are. And sometimes, even in sports, there is no winning answer.
Danz is an avid runner, reader and writer. She’s a graduate of Concordia College in Moorhead who lives, works and believes in downtown Fargo. She’s a regular contributor to The Forum’s opinion pages.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.