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  • Writer's pictureEmily Zavala

Transgender Athletes in Sports

Protests erupted in the controversy following an Iowa law restricting transgender women from school sports. (Aiden Craver/Unsplash)

Iowa State Governor Kim Reynolds passed a law prohibiting transgender women from competing in high school to college level sports on March 3. Although the law has been met with support, it has also sparked some controversy over equity and fairness.

The Controversy Behind Transgender Women Athletes

The participation of transgender women in high school to college level sports has been a controversial topic for several years. Many believe that separating transgender women from cisgender women is discriminatory, while others believe that transgender women hold an unfair advantage when it comes to competing in official sporting events.

People have opposed transgender women participating in competitive sports because they worry that there is an unfair, biological advantage that transgender women can hold over women who were biologically born female. Males have the ability to carry higher amounts of oxygen, have larger and denser bones, and higher muscle mass. This has become a concern for other competing athletes and a part of the general public as some fear that transgender women can carry these biological traits into competitions with cisgender women. Governor Kim Reynolds has shared that she believes it is a “fairness issue” and she wants women to be able to have “the same opportunities.”

On the other hand, the process of transitioning is more complex. When taking hormone therapy, transgender individuals have decreased levels of haemoglobin and haematocrit when taking hormones for four months. These levels are equivalent to that in cisgender women. After about a year, the levels of strength and muscle also decrease. Although they do not reduce to the same strength and muscle levels as cisgender women, it is still a significant decrease. Overall, the anatomy of a transgender person is different than their bodies before transitioning.

Nonetheless, the NAACP has taken actions to address unfairness in women’s sports. In order to compete, transgender women must be on hormone therapy for over a year. This is an important measure because it takes about 12 months for a decrease in muscle and strength levels to be apparent. Some believe these regulations still don’t fully address the issue completely, while others believe the NAACP rule allows for acceptance and an equal chance for everyone.

Personal Reactions to Iowa Bill

Iowa residents have differing opinions on the bill put in place by Reynolds.

Gavy Smith, a young transgender girl, has spoken out on how the bill has personally affected her. She shared that playing sports has helped her “feel included” and now that this new law is in place, she feels like this issue has been “made worse” and transgender children will have a hard time feeling accepted and included. She plays volleyball for her local high school as a freshman and has expressed interest in playing golf, but the new bill may prevent her from doing so.

In contrast, a track star at Carlisle High School, Ainsley Erzen, has expressed her gratitude and enthusiasm for the bill. She shared that the “biological differences” create an evident “performance gap” that shouldn’t be questioned.

Even though this bill has been in place for almost a couple of months now, the question of whether it is fair or not remains.



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