We have found ourselves in a couple of touchy conversations about bathroom rules lately, specifically with regard to the sturm und drang over the apparently widely feared presence of trans women in the ladies room, especially in schools. We have been called upon by cis-normative conservatives (yeah, we wrote that just to misbehave) in our circle to defend the honor of our women — don’t we fear for our daughters? — but when we polled our women they were quite clear they needed no defense and agreed with the substance of President Obama’s intervention, cranky federalism qualifications to one side. The prevailing view in the hep ‘n’ cool circles in which our wife and daughters run is that trans people are far more likely to be victims of abuse than perpetrators, so diminishing that risk is a good thing even at the cost of some discomfort (or even the occasional assault by a trans person).
Anyway, our purpose is not to litigate the bathroom issue, which does not much interest us personally, but to put this story in to context. It seems that a former young man now identifying as a young woman has qualified for the 100 and 200 meter events in the Alaska state track and field finals. The competitor — yes, a dodge, but we’re trying not to go down a rabbit hole here — who rejoices in the name Nattaphon Wangyot, is no muscle-bound sprinter looking for an easy gold.
Wangyot may, however, have an advantage that girls who are born girls do not have. Who really knows in any given case? But who can prove otherwise? (We should say that this question of gender identity in sports is not entirely new to your Editor. Fifteen years ago he played on a company softball team that rounded out its required number of females with a trans woman who was not nearly so, er, lithe as Ms. Wangyot. It being New Jersey, the other teams were not entirely silent on the question of fairness, but justice prevailed basically because nobody gave a rat’s ass about the local corporate softball league.)
And therein lies the rub. While Americans can and will get comfortable with revisions to public restroom admission protocols (and we think Republicans are again shooting themselves in the foot on the issue), high school sports are freaking sacred. Reflect, if you will, on the many times you have witnessed the faintest shadow of a hint of “unfairness” in the sport of children leveraged in to a foam-speckled shouting match, figuratively or even literally. The chattering classes, who mostly got that way by sucking at high school sports, have literally no idea how big this issue will become, and what pressure it will put on the position of trans athletes, even in the otherwise forgiving hearts of northeastern suburban soccer moms and Little League dads. OK, there are very few forgiving Little League dads, but you get our point.
The only saving grace here is that this issue will not affect Texas high school football, at least as a question of fairness. But girls basketball in Iowa? Hmm…