For decades, American universities were at the forefront of providing new opportunities for female athletes. As “woke” identity politics have infiltrated academia, colleges have subordinated women’s sports programs and 150 years of progress in women’s athletics to the destructive agenda of political correctness. The most recent Ivy League swim season has highlighted this travesty, showing all of America the devastating consequences of allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports.
University of Pennsylvania’s transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has risen to dominate women’s Ivy League swimming. As a male, Will Thomas began swimming at age 5, competed in male competitions until age 21, and spent three years on the University of Pennsylvania men’s swimming team. Will Thomas didn’t distinguish himself as a male swimmer, didn’t set records or earn all-league recognition. Will then adopted the female name Lia and began competing as a transgender woman for Penn, not unexpectedly setting records in several events.
Ms. Thomas’ dominance in the world of women’s swimming surprised approximately no one. The transgender crusaders may delight in watching Ms. Thomas crush women’s swimming records, but the rest of us see clearly how Ms. Thomas is crushing the dreams of young girls hoping to compete at the college level.
Ms. Thomas may adopt any gender identity and is free to undergo a variety of medical treatments to pursue that identity. Higher-education institutions, however, have a moral obligation to resist the politically-correct notion that gender identity transitions are somehow capable of reversing a lifetime of male hormones and male puberty.
Cynthia Millen, a former USA Swimming official, argues that biology still matters, even in a world that accommodates new gender identities. Ms. Millen resigned from her post after the organization decided to allow Ms. Thomas to participate on the women’s team. In an interview, Ms. Millen said she could not bear to watch the destruction of the sport she loves, as women are “thrown under the bus” by biological males. “The fact is that swimming is a sport in which bodies compete against bodies. Identities do not compete against identities.”
Ms. Millen isn’t alone in her professional viewpoint. Doriane Lambelet Coleman, a professor at Duke University, also points out that even the world’s greatest female athletes who have competed in the Olympics “would lose to literally thousands of boys and men, including to thousands who would be considered second tier in the men’s category.”
A key feature of sports is that certain individuals have natural advantages of height, speed, strength or coordination. Through hard work and fair competition, athletes can overcome those natural differences and develop other competitive advantages. It is natural for spectators to cheer for the underdog who perseveres, even when not blessed with all of the natural benefits other team players may enjoy. Allowing individuals who went through male puberty to compete against women makes a mockery of women’s sports and effectively renders all of the talented women on the team the underdogs.
Since Title IX was enacted in 1972, opening doors for female athletes in education, girls’ participation in high school sports has grown exponentially. In the 1971-1972 school year, there were just barely 294,000 female athletes in high school. (By comparison, 3,667,000 high school boys played on a school sport that same year.) Today, girls account for 43% of high school athletes, thanks to Title IX and the trailblazing women in sports who have served as role models to younger generations.
However, all of the progress of the last five decades is being sacrificed by the very people who claim to champion constant progress — the progressives.
Allowing biological males to compete in competitive female sports is anything but progressive. It will undoubtedly lead to lower participation rates for women in sports, robbing countless women of athletic competition’s numerous mental, physical and professional benefits.
America has long recognized the critical role that sports play in our culture. Team sports, in particular, provide invaluable lessons in teamwork, goal-setting, the pursuit of excellence and, significantly, how to lose with grace. The benefits for girls in sports are enormous — including an improved body image and higher self-confidence.
Athletic victories are a zero-sum game. Whenever a biological male is awarded a title, medal or scholarship designated for girls’ or women’s sports, a biological woman in the sport is deprived of that same opportunity.
Since the 1870s, American women have worked to establish competitive opportunities for female athletes in high school, college and professionally. To allow all of that progress to be forfeited on the altar of woke politics would create a significant loss for American girls.
• Ken Buck is a former Ivy League football player and currently serves as a member of Congress from Colorado. He is the author of “Capitol of Freedom: Restoring American Greatness.”