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A few weeks ago in this column, I advocated against setting off fireworks. This week I may be ignoring my own advice by stating the following: trans athletes need a reality check, and the trans community needs to be more tolerant of others. Let’s begin with the reality check.

An increasing number of males who identify as female are competing in high school, college, and international athletic events. Not surprisingly, these trans athletes are besting the biological females with whom they are competing, so much so that earlier this year Alliance Defending Freedom filed a complaint with the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, protesting the policy of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference.

Connecticut is one of 17 states that allow trans athletes to compete at the high school level without restrictions (this is in contrast with, for example, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association which contends that “a student’s gender is denoted by what is on the birth certificate”). Simply put, female athletes in Connecticut believe that trans athletes hold a distinct advantage over them, a sentiment that is shared by noted lesbian activist Julia Beck, who told FOX News,

“In many states, men can legally identify themselves as female and gain access to women’s single-sex spaces. Sports is just one institution where men are taking titles, scholarships, and this is a problem. Many women like myself have been pushed out of spaces that we built – spaces that are intended to include us simply because we acknowledge biological reality.”     

Where high school and college athletics are concerned, the primary argument and complaint advanced by the trans community tend to focus on so-called violations of Title IX. The problem is that Title IX never guaranteed the rights of biological men to compete as women. Instead, Title IX was enacted to guarantee that female athletes had access to the same facilities and opportunities as male athletes. But regardless of how one chooses to interpret and apply Title IX, for the most part, biological male athletes are stronger and faster than biological female athletes. Even Caitlyn Jenner agrees, telling Piers Morgan that she holds an unfair advantage over the women she plays golf with.

Now to the issue of tolerance; 18-time Grand Slam tennis champ Martina Navratilova dominated her sport in the 1980s, and is still considered to be the greatest women’s tennis player ever. She was also a champion off the court, having made the courageous decision to come out in 1981, and then become a fearless advocate for gay rights thereafter. In February of this year, Martina penned a column for the Sunday Times in which she wrote:

“It is insane that hundreds of athletes who have changed gender by declaration and limited hormone treatment have already achieved honors as women that were beyond their capabilities as men…It is insane, and it is cheating. I am happy to address a Transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair”.      

Martina’s column followed a controversial tweet last December in which she said, “You can’t just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women. There must be some standards, and having a penis and competing as a woman would not fit that standard.”

Following those remarks, it didn’t take long for the trans community to turn on Martina for speaking her mind. TransActual, a United Kingdom-based trans advocacy Twitter and Facebook account, tweeted, “We’re pretty devastated to discover that Martina Navratilova is transphobic.”  TransActual’s tweet takes name-calling, labeling, and intolerance to an absurd level, considering the target of its derision. The tweet was also disrespectful to a woman who once risked everything by announcing to the world that she is a lesbian. I had the honor to meet and interview Martina during that difficult time, and back then, despite the stress, she held it together with strength and dignity. Martina is a successful woman who can endure the name-calling and nasty labels, but in today’s overly PC world, not every gay or straight female athlete can afford to speak their mind. In a recent interview with Bill Maher, Dr. Deborah Soh explained why.

 “I am sympathetic to the other female competitors. They can’t really say anything, but they say things behind the scenes. They can’t say anything in public because they are afraid of being called transphobic.”

It’s going to take some time for the courts and the states to resolve the gender identity dilemma in athletic competition, but until then, the trans community needs to practice what it preaches, and stop demonizing people for their beliefs. Intolerant is something none of us should identify as.

Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).

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