On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed what is being referred to as the “Equality Act,” H.R. 5, which was pushed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to add gender identity and sexual orientation to existing federal nondiscrimination laws.
According to a professor at Duke Law School, this legislation, if passed by the Senate and signed into law, would have disastrous consequences for women’s sports.
In April oral testimony in front of the House, professor Doriane Lambelet Coleman used simple science to explain why the tearing down of gender differentiation could spell the end of female athletics.
“I support equality,” Coleman said in her opening statement, before explaining how destructive the Equality Act could be.
“The argument is that because some males identify as women, some women have testes,” she said. “From this, it follows that sex and sex-linked traits can’t be the grounds for distinctions ‘on the basis of sex’ because this excludes women with testes. Thus, gender identity is the only legitimate basis for classifying someone into and out of, for example, girls’- and women’s-only spaces and opportunities.”
Coleman brings up a valid point that many of its advocates gloss over: Gender equality is unfair to girls and women.
“I support equality, including for the LGBTQ community,” she said. “But I don’t support the current version of H.R. 5 because — and I say this with enormous respect for everyone who cares about and is working on the bill — it elides sex, sexual orientation and gender identity: It’s all sex discrimination, and, at least impliedly, we’re all the same.
“In opting for what is in effect a sex-blind approach to sex discrimination law, the legislation would serve as cover for disparities on the basis of sex.”
Coleman went on to describe the impact that the Equality Act would have on Title IX, which “requires (schools) to invest in male and female athletes equally.” Coleman cites that Title IX has helped female participation in sports by more than 900 percent.
“Those of us who were athletes know that segregation on the basis of sex or at least of sex-linked traits is necessary to achieve equality in this space,” she said. “That’s why, even though we’ve integrated almost all other spaces and opportunities, we are still committed to girls- and women’s-only sport.”
Bingo. Coleman’s statement is exactly why there isn’t any sort of a WNBA–NBA hybrid. WNBA players are all supremely talented athletes, but it’d be foolish to even consider the idea of Sue Bird trying to shut down Kawhi Leonard in a competitive setting. It simply wouldn’t be fair.
“Scientists agree that males and females are materially different with respect to the main physical attributes that contribute to athletic performance, and they agree that the primary reason for sex differences in these attributes is exposure in gonadal males to much higher levels of testosterone during growth and development (puberty), and throughout the athletic career,” Coleman continued.
“This different exposure literally builds the male body in the respects that matter for sport,” she said.
Coleman then used various graphs to depict just how significant the differences in physical performance can be due to testosterone.
One graph, in particular, showed the 400-meter lifetime bests of Team USA’s Sanya Richards-Ross and Allyson Felix. Their comparative results to men were not pretty.
“It shows that even at their absolute best, the women would lose to literally thousands of boys and men, including to thousands who would be considered second-tier in the men’s category,” Coleman said.
And remember, these are some of the best female athletes in their field. The differences at the high school and college levels would be even more drastic.
Coleman also had a counterargument ready for those who like to claim that the number of transgender athletes competing in sports is negligible.
“And because it only takes three male-bodied athletes to preclude the best females from the medal stand, and eight to exclude them from the track, it doesn’t matter if only a handful turn out to be gender nonconforming,” she said.
Coleman also pointed out how damaging the Equality Act could be for many of the most prominent modern female athletes around.
“If U.S. law changes so that we can no longer distinguish females from women with testes for any purpose, we risk not knowing the next Sanya Richards-Ross or the next Allyson Felix,” she said. “We risk losing the extraordinary value that comes from having women like Serena Williams, Aly Raisman and Ibtihaj Mohammed in our lives and on the medal stand. If they bothered to compete, they would be relegated to participants in the game.”
Relegating women to be mere “participants in the game” sounds rather counterintuitive to “equality,” no?
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.