Some of the issues and factions in the debate over letting young people play sports.
What follows is an examination of the issues around the participation of trans youth in sports.
There are many different pieces aligning in controversy, so a list to start:
- College admissions
- Anti-Trans activists
- Female fragility issues
- Pro-Trans activists
- Youth who like sports
- Adults who live vicariously through youth sports
- The philosophy of sports
Start with college. It’s competitive to get in, to get scholarships. Sporting ability is a showcase for students looking to attend a more prestigious school. So one of the efforts both for and against trans youth participating in sports as their gender is about the number of sports slots on various teams, the potential of depriving either a cis or trans youth the chance to be recognized in sports as a means to lucre in their later life.
The anti-Trans activists are people who for pseudo-religious or other reasons think Trans people aren’t deserving of recognition. As a result, they will generally oppose any efforts to be accommodating to trans people, whether youth or not. They are a natural ally for others who have non-discriminatory interests in nonaccommodation. By themselves they represent bigotry for its own sake, and while they claim to be religious there is evidence their religions’ founders would not support their stances.
There are female fragility issues, which is the general social notion that women are built out of sugar and spice and all that jazz, and how dare you! Rather than recognizing women and girls are pretty smart and resilient and should not be treated like idiots, there is a tendency to want to protect them from having to use their own brains. (By the by, this tendency also conveniently deprives young women from learning about their social power to force change, maintaining the patriarchy.) These issues include locker room issues, questions of psychological drive to compete by cis-females compared to trans-females, and so on. It’s not entirely a well-formed group by itself, but it is more of a theme that comes up in these discussions.
You have pro-Trans activists that believe anything less than simply treating trans and cis individuals equally would be discriminatory and crude and bigoted. They kind of have a point, especially in light of the latest rulings by the Supreme Court.
Some young people like playing sports and really just want to be the ball or kick the ball or hit the ball or throw it or catch it or all that kind of thing. Because it’s fun. They want to have a chance to play, regardless of their gender, and don’t really want to be pitted against each other (except in actual sports, of course).
Whether parents or other adults around youth sports, some have a kind of role-playing kick where they pretend youth sports are a grand slam, a world cup, and a wrestlemania all rolled into a superbowl with a side of world series. They are attracted to cheering, coaching, so on, by the affordance of being super-excited about something.
Finally, there’s the philosophy of sports. This is the general notion that there’s some objectives intended in competition, what competition should look like. The arguments employed against trans youth participating in gendered sports as their gender imply a certain outlook on sports that isn’t consistent. (That is, notions of fairness in sports are highly skewed toward letting those with wealth or natural ability dominate, except along arbitrary lines that the powerful and wealthy impose on kids.)
Once you separate out the non-participants, the real issues around transgender youth participation in sports are actually just a few:
- Philosophy of sports
- Youth who like sports
The college issue is its own issue. College is all kinds of messed up. It’s too expensive. There’s overemphasis on elite institutions. It’s too expensive. The athletes don’t get paid. It’s too expensive. But the cost of college, the economic factor in this whole mix, is huge. Some high schools spend a lot of money on sports (usually football or baseball). Money is always a powerful narcotic in undermining anything useful and good.
The philosophy of sports is the second big issue, because it’s sorely neglected throughout the sporting world. Only in things like wrestling and boxing are things like weight classes considered (which leads to bad dietary practices). But, long story short, sports should be trying to create useful competitions. There shouldn’t be gendered sports, but rather mixed teams of those with the capacities to compete at their levels. This alone would solve the problem. But some of the other issues like female fragility or the adults who obsess about youth sports probably prevent the only real solution.
(Not only would it solve the problem, but it’s a worthwhile change anyway. Sports should be built on seeking reasonable competitiveness, not on seeing who can spend more money to effectively hire a better team. In automotive sports, and in other sports with certain equipment and technology components, there are restrictions expressly to keep the sport from becoming a nuclear-powered techfest. Almost all sports have some prohibitions on performance enhancing drugs and techniques. The goal is to have people exhibit their ability, not merely to win. Unlevel team matchups do not exhibit either team’s abilities properly.)
The other issue, which is the only one that should matter, is the youth who want to play. I mean, all this other stuff really does get in the way of excitement about how the human body and mind can be tuned to perform some tasks really well. There are differences in ability, intra-gender and inter-gender. Some of those are surmountable through practice and training, others are not. The design of the sports themselves do cause some of those factors to exist. But the design of the leagues and teams also exacerbate those factors.
Anyway, obviously trans youth should be allowed to compete in sports, and obviously sports should be realigned to match competitive abilities correctly regardless of gender. And while we’re at it, college should be made less expensive and prestige should be deemphasized in education (if those institutions were so smart they’d have done this already).