UPenn swimmer Lia Thomas may be smashing records and winning races against women, but LGBTQ advocates say the transgender-athlete issue is a loser.
A Transgender Law Center “messaging guide” posted online last month found that no matter how the issue was framed, “no arguments we tested bested the opposition in a direct debate on sports policy.”
“Right now, our opposition wins the debate on trans youth in sports against any and all arguments we have tried for our side,” reads the 13-page report, titled “Transgender Youth and the Freedom to Be Ourselves: Building Our Choir with a Race Class Gender Narrative.”
The guide resulted from a survey of 1,000 adults from July 29-Aug. 5 and a separate sample of 95 activists from Aug. 13-Sept. 24. The surveys were conducted by the Transgender Law Center in conjunction with ASO Communications and Lake Research Partners.
The Daily Signal has posted a Scribd copy of the report on its website.
The report recommends attaching transgender rights to the race, class and gender narrative to “cultivate resistance to [Republican] attacks,” specifically state legislation to bar male-born transgender athletes from competing against females and ban some gender-reassignment procedures for minors.
More than 100 such bills were introduced in the previous legislative session, the report said.
“This new approach builds on the Race Class Narrative to tell a convincing story of how our opposition uses strategic racism and transphobia to harm us all; and how, by coming together, we can ensure we all have the freedom to be ourselves and support one another,” the guide states.
Such a narrative came up short, however, on the issue of transgender participation in girls’ and women’s sports, the report says.
“There is a huge gap in awareness and concern, with most base and persuadable respondents unaware of proposals regarding transgender girls’ participation in sports, while a strong majority of our opposition has heard some or a lot about it,” reads the guide.
Indeed, right-tilting news outlets like the New York Post, OutKick and the [U.K.] DailyMail.com have run numerous articles on the Lia Thomas situation at the University of Pennsylvania while the so-called mainstream media has mostly ignored the story.
LGBTQ sites such as Outsports and LGBTQ Nation have sought to fill the void with articles sympathetic to Thomas, although those outlets lack the reach of major newspapers and networks.
One of the few mainstream outlets to cover the story is NBC News via its digital portal NBC OUT, which ran a Dec. 16 article about the criticism over Thomas headlined, “Ivy League swimmer becomes target of transphobic rhetoric.”
The messaging guide says the movement’s “base and persuadables want to support transgender student athletes, but are extremely susceptible to our opposition’s argument that excluding trans youth is necessary to protect the fairness of women’s sports.”
One reason: Sporting events are zero-sum competitions in which only one individual or team can win, meaning that “people resist and dismiss our calls for sports policies that benefit our collective good, the core of a Race Class Gender Narrative.”
In terms of solutions, questioning the opposition is always an option, the guide says.
“[A] Race Class Gender Narrative does help us call into question the motives of people introducing these bills and even cast doubt on their necessity as a matter of state legislation (as opposed to sports association/local school policy),” reads the report.
The guide also suggests linking transgender participation to “the long legacy of discrimination against women athletes” and promoting personal narratives that help their audience “get to know a transgender person.”