As sure as touching fire will lead to a burn, as sure as everything Beyoncé touches will turn gold, the story out of Utah this week was always going to have to be written.
When you fear-monger about transgender human beings and then adopt legislation to try to write them out of society, you will inevitably create scenarios where bad-faith bigots will weaponize those laws for any reason.
Via the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News, two sets of whiny parents, upset that their daughters were soundly defeated in a state-level competition last year by a third girl, complained to the Utah High School Activities Association that the winning girl might be transgender. (To protect the girl's identity, the UHSAA would not reveal the sport, classification or school she attended.)
Utah passed a law earlier this year banning transgender girls from competing on interscholastic teams with and against other girls, a rule so odious and demeaning and affecting so minuscule a population that the state’s Republican governor vetoed it, only to have his veto later overridden by the legislature before a judge reversed the law once again for the upcoming school year on Friday.
The new ruling isn't much better. Transgender girls will be required to go before a state commission of political appointees who will determine, on a case-by-case basis, if they are eligible to participate, per the Associated Press. The commission was even embedded in the initial law as a fallback plan in case of an injunction.
So trans girls are still being singled out at best, vilified at worst. Just like the parents who complained to the UHSAA. They apparently had no basis for their accusation, they just didn’t like that their girls lost.
Instead of getting their little Becky or Meghan a little more practice time before the next state competition or simply accepting that the winning athlete was indeed that good, they exposed themselves as hate-filled creatures and got the UHSAA to investigate whether the winning girl was really a girl.
Because there couldn’t be any other reason, right? Let’s demonize a talented child to make ourselves feel better! Angry emails! Accusatory phone calls! We must protect our daughters from the vicious feeling of — gasp! — defeat!
Sports teaches us many things, but perhaps no lesson more than “if you can’t beat her, mommy and daddy will try to get her disqualified.”
And those parents aren’t the only ones. Apparently the UHSAA has been fielding calls from multiple (alleged) adults, complaining that other girls aren’t feminine enough.
The UHSAA investigates every disgusting, bad faith claim.
In the aforementioned case of the girl who "outclassed" the field in a state-level competition, the organization demanded that the girl’s high school look into her records to see that she’d always been registered as a girl. The school looked all the way back to kindergarten and confirmed it.
The worst part: No one told the champion girl or her family that some bigoted zealots demanded to know whether she was a girl.
According to a UHSAA spokesman, the girl and her family were kept in the dark for her protection.
Sure. Her protection.
Sadly, this story isn't surprising. Since women began taking part in athletics, there have been all sorts of stereotypes and false claims about what sports can do to their bodies, or what having developed muscles does to one’s attractiveness. And now in some states it’s possible for parents to wield their own insecurities and ideas of sportsmanship (and that’s putting it kindly) as a weapon, essentially allowed by law to target, harm and hurt any young girl they don’t think is feminine enough.
What does that exactly mean? Why, for example, does a board of political appointees get to determine what is “feminine enough?” It is completely within the realm of possibility that a 15-year-old girl who is a competitive athlete would have smaller breasts or have a body shape that’s more rectangular than curvy. It's also entirely within the realm of possibility that a 15-year-old girl who isn’t athletic would look like that.
Is long, flowing hair also a requirement for “femininity”? Painted nails? Mascara? Again, who gets to decide?
And where do these people think elite-level Division I athletes come from? They don’t just materialize fully formed at 18 years old and walk onto a college campus to compete for NCAA championships.
American 800-meter World and Olympic gold medalist Athing Mu was setting national age-group records as a high schooler; the same with current 400-meter hurdles world record holder Sydney McLaughlin. Swimmer Lydia Jacoby won 100-meter breaststroke gold last year despite coming from Alaska, not exactly a state known for its aquatics prowess. Basketball Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie once scored 101 points in just 16 minutes of a high school game.
They were just that damn good. It’s called talent, skill and dedication.
Traits some parents in Utah are clearly unfamiliar with. They’d rather show their daughters the easiest path is the best one:
If you can’t beat ‘em, dehumanize ‘em.