Human progress is fueled by limitless flights of imagination. That’s a good thing, except when the individual fantasy runs smack-dab into objective reality. Then it is best that the image so dear to one and so harmful to others remain a private reverie. Such is the case of young male athletes who claim to be young women, at least in their own minds. The physical advantage that lads have over lasses cannot be erased by wishful thinking, drugs or scalpels. Only the delusional refuse to accept that boys will be boys.
The modern-day culture war, which urges individuals to fashion their own truth, has opened deep cracks in common sense. In the corresponding battle of the sexes, though, unvarnished fact is staging a comeback.
Last week, the Department of Justice came down on the side of logic when it agreed with Idaho in defense of the state’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, a law prohibiting biological males identifying as females from competing in girls’ sporting events. “Allowing biological males to compete in all-female sports is fundamentally unfair to female athletes,” wrote Attorney General William P. Barr in a statement, adding: “Single-sex athletics is rooted in the reality of biological differences between the sexes and should stay rooted in objective biological fact.”
The Justice Department went on to state that “the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution does not require States to abandon their efforts to provide biological women with equal opportunity to compete for, and enjoy the life-long benefits that flow from, participation in school athletics in order to accommodate the team preferences of transgender athletes.”
The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged Idaho’s law, passed March 30, on the grounds that it violates the rights of transgender persons. To be sure, individuals who refuse to identify with their biological sex deserve all the rights afforded to every American. Their state of mind, however, ought not to entitle them to special privileges unavailable to the less imaginative.
By way of example, dyslexia causes some sufferers to read words backward. It’s unfortunate, and a sympathetic society makes some allowances, such as giving dyslexic students extra time when taking standardized tests. However, the law provides no exceptions for medical conditions that could result in harm to others like, say, mixing up traffic signs and driving on the wrong side of the street.
Boys confused over their sexual identity deserve compassion when something in their hearts says “girl” while every cell in their bodies is infused with “boy” DNA. Male physiology includes skeletal and muscular structures that grant boys a physical edge like greater strength and lung capacity. Female hormone treatment that some transgender boys undergo can reduce the natural advantage, but not fully neutralize it.
Idaho is far from the only state fighting for the legitimate right of young women to engage in athletic competition on an even playing field. Transgender athletes have broken into girls’ sports in 17 states plus the District of Columbia. In Connecticut, the athletic exploits of biological boys transitioning to females have become the subject of a federal lawsuit filed in February. In particular, two transgender sprinters, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, together have won 15 state indoor and outdoor girls’ track championships during their high school careers. Their victories have relegated competing female athletes to also-rans, denying them recognition and, potentially, valuable scholarships.
The scorecard of injustice has prompted the U.S. Department of Education to rule in May that the state is violating the civil rights of female athletes. The department’s Office for Civil Rights threatened to withhold federal funds from the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which oversees schools where boys identifying as females are lining up against biological girls.
Weighing the rights of transgender athletes against those whose gender conforms to biology may require the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court. Last week, the high court upheld workplace equality for gay, lesbian and transgender employees, but the ruling may not necessarily be repeated in the context of sports competition. Sexual orientation is a personal matter and has no relevance to performance on the job, but biological characteristics cannot be simply ignored when they influence performance on the field.
Male athletes who run away from their biological sexuality have a leg up on girls. Fairness is trampled underfoot when they are allowed to join competitions meant for girls. Imagination aside, boys will be boys.