If you watched last week’s State of the Union Address and stuck around for the Republican Rebuttal, you’ll recognize Iowa State Governor, Kim Reynolds. Known for her very republican values, and harsh criticism towards Biden’s foreign and domestic policy- she is now making headlines for her very conservative agenda which involves banning all trans students in the state of Iowa from participating in competitive sports- from elementary schools to colleges.
Before we deep dive into Reynold’s new policy let’s debunk some myths she perpetuated in her speech before passing the legislation. All the research I conducted was based on medical journals and the opinions of hormone and endocrinologist specialists in this field. First and foremost, despite what Kim Reynolds may try to perpetuate, just because a person identifies as a woman does not mean they can compete in the female category. The IOC mandates trans women are only able to compete in the female category after 1 year of having testosterone levels below 10 nanomoles per liter. Meanwhile, the World athletics rules require levels to be below 5 nanomoles per liter, and the NCAA doesn’t require levels, but state participants have to undergo hormone therapy for at least a year. The current issue is that there isn’t a whole lot of research on the exact advantages if any at all, that trans women may have in certain sports- but here is what some studies have shown so far:
One of the most important retrospective studies was conducted by 3 physicians who used air force fitness tests to determine if there were any significant changes in physical capability. Using 29 transgender men and 46 transgender women, participants were asked to complete a set amount of situps and push-ups in a minute, as well as run 1.5 miles in a required time frame. This was a 5-year study, but after 2 years, trans women were found to be able to do 10% more pushups and 6% more than cis females. So yes, in some cases trans women may have a slight advantage, but we’ll get to why that’s not as big of a deal as it may seem later. Conversely, another study found that trans women ran 10% slower after a year on hormones, but were no slower or faster than biologically female athletes. However, this study was said to lump a lot of data together, specifically when these women received hormones (some had only been on the hormones for 1 year, the others had been for 2+ years) so its validity is slightly questioned.
Earlier, I mentioned that some studies and journals did conclude a difference in biological advantages, however, sometimes that may not always be as significant as it is made out to be. Take Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps for example, his height, body structure, and decreased lactic acid build-up are some biological advantages he holds over his competitors. These differences are often celebrated because they have helped the US bring home gold in the swim events multiple times. The point is, in any sort of sport, there are going to be athletes with different advantages due to height, flexibility, genetic makeup, etc. There has never been an equal playing field in sports, but meaningful competitions can still be had as long as the differences aren’t drastically significant. Take boxing, for example, competitions are based on weight groups because a meaningful competition could not be held between two people with stark weight differences. However, if we are only talking about a 3-5lb difference, the fight is relatively fair. The same can be said for trans women in sports- yes, sometimes they will be slightly larger, sometimes not, but as long as their physical capabilities are not immensely different from the rest of their competition, one could argue a meaningful game could still be played.
While signing the bill, Reynolds was surrounded by a group of teen girls and made the following remark: “This is a victory for girls’ sports in Iowa…No amount of talent, training, or effort can make up for the natural physical advantages males have over females. It‘s simply a reality of human biology…forcing females to compete against males is the opposite of inclusivity and it’s unfair.” Despite how you interpret the studies above, and whether or not you agree with them, I find one of the most critical issues to be with how Reynolds spoke. Not only did she imply trans women were not actually women, but she also referred to them as “males” multiple times. Imagine someone else talking about you by the gender you do not go by- take a second to realize how invalidating that may feel. The entire display of Reynolds and all those girls besides her was certainly not a prime example of “women supporting women” and was instead a direct attack. At this point, Reynolds’ stance goes beyond creating“fairness” when she makes biased statements like that. Kicking an entire group of adolescents and even adults out of sports they are passionate about because legislators are refusing to do actual research on the subject is incredibly dangerous and inhumane.
It may be difficult for some people to conclude what the best way to handle trans athletes in sports may be due to the limited research and the scientific controversy surrounding the matter. Nonetheless, the main issue I find is with how Reynolds spoke about trans athletes and her promotion of the continued stigma surrounding this group of marginalized people. I believe that sports should be about having fun and engaging in meaningful competition, not a battleground for politics- always remember that research is the key and that the only true way to form a professional opinion is by looking at credible facts first.
***This opinion article reflects the voice of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of The Viking Times as a whole. Like most news outlets, The Viking Times is a non-partisan media platform.***