(Photo courtesy of American Enterprise Institute) “Title IX is the federal law barring sex-based discrimination in American schools and universities that receive federal funding.”
Dear Dr. Lopiano,
First of all, I wanted to thank you for coming to UMass Lowell, and appreciate all that you’ve done for women in sports. However, I cannot say that I agree with much of what was said both in your presentation and your essay with Ms. Burton Nelson. Opening with stats on how Americans are sedentary, obese and how boys are expected, seemingly required, by society to play sports is simply false. My parents signed me up for t-ball and soccer when I was five. I went to precisely two t-ball practices, cried because we said “1, 2, 3, friendship” rather than “1, 2, 3, teamwork” in the huddle at the end of practice, and then never even looked at a baseball until I was 10 years old.
On the front of transgender athletes in sports, I personally disagree and am, to an extent, angered with the way that you present transgender women entering women’s athletics. The idea of a biological male who identifies as a woman joining a women’s sports team and putting others at a disadvantage is simply not what has occurred in sports situations around the world. When the Rugby Football Union banned trans women from competing on women’s rugby teams in England earlier this year, the York RI Ladies twitter account tweeted a long string of tweets. The following tweet stood out to me: “Rugby teams have incredibly diverse body types – it’s one of the key strengths of the game. The 6’4 ‘brick [expletive]’ people are panicking about? We’ve played her, she was cis, and our 5’0 scrum half took her down by the ankles.”
If we are to use the logic of removing persons with unique biological advantages from sports teams, then sports would simply cease to exist. Under these conditions, Usain Bolt running a 9.58 second 100 meters would be invalid due to him being 6 inches taller than the average sprinter. Another example would be Michael Phelps, who has the torso of a person seven feet tall and the legs of someone 5’5. Should his 23 Olympic golds be stripped due to his body being seemingly designed to be the perfect swimmer? What about Miguel Indurán, a Spanish cyclist whose lungs are almost 50% larger than the average human and has a resting heart rate of 28 beats per minute? Should his five victories in the Tour de France be stripped because he’s not average? I hope that you understand the point I’m trying to drive at here. Athletes who are most successful in any high-level sport, both men’s and women’s competition, are not average. They are physically different. That’s the point of sports.
You also claim that safety is a concern when trans women are competing in women’s sports, citing the use of weight classes in wrestling and other combat sports as a measure to curb injuries. The example you presented was that a 120 pound wrestler matching up against a 200 pound wrestler would be both unfair and unsafe. However, if I may, I would like to direct you to a sport that I have not only been watching, but researching for more than 6 years. In Japan’s national sport of sumo wrestling, there are no weight classes. 220 pound wrestlers are regularly matched up with, and can handily beat, wrestlers twice their size with no concern given to fairness or safety. If both sides understand, follow the rules and are properly trained, the level of additional concern given to the fairness and safety of the competition should be minimal.
If transgender athletes want to compete in sports, they should decide what team they elect to play on. It should not be the decision of any national or international governing body, school officials, or anyone else except for the person who wants to play. I was cut from the UML rugby team (a “no cut” team, mind you) because of my physical attributes. While I was already planning on quit on my own, being told to leave hurt far more than I expected it to. I can’t even begin to fathom how much it must hurt to be told “we don’t want you here,” not by a coach, but by a national or global governing body of the sport you love so much.
If you are willing to, I would love to get in contact with you to have a “face to face” or screen to screen discussion. I am a journalism major and host a radio show on 91.5 FM WUML, Lowell every Wednesday afternoon from 12-1. I would be delighted and honored to have an interview or discussion on the show or in an article for The Connector, the UML school newspaper. Again, I appreciate your time in reading my thoughts and hope that we may be able to sit down and have a discussion.