Brandon Boulware is a father of four, including a transgender daughter who plays volleyball. Earlier this month, he spoke up for his daughter as he delivered his testimony during a March 3rd meeting of the Missouri state House.
Since then, Boulware’s speech has drawn much attention as some states debate restrictions on trans athletes competing in schools.
Introducing himself as “a lifelong Missourian, business lawyer, Christian, and the son of a Methodist minister,” Boulware shared his opinion on a resolution that would ban transgender high school athletes from participating in girls’ sports in Missouri.
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Right now, there are about 35 such bills considered in 20 states. Just days ago, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed one such law, which is scheduled to go into effect later this year.
“I proudly signed the Mississippi Fairness Act to ensure young girls are not forced to compete against biological males,” Governor Reeves, a Republican, tweeted.
Supporters of these bills say they are necessary to reduce what they believe to be an unfair competitive advantage of transgender athletes who identify as female.
On the other hand, advocacy groups like the ACLU say that these laws are discriminatory.
Dr. Eric Vilain, a pediatrician and geneticist at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C, who has studied sex differences throughout his career and has also advised the International Olympic Committee on these issues, said that men have on average an advantage in performance in athletics of about 10 to 12% over women, which the sports authorities have attributed to differences in levels of a male hormone called testosterone.
Villain said the question is whether there is in real life, during actual competitions, an advantage of performance linked to this male hormone and whether trans athletes are systematically winning all competitions.
“The answer to this latter question – are trans athletes winning everything? – is simple. That’s not the case,” Villain said. “And higher levels of the male hormone testosterone are associated with better performance only in a very small number of athletic disciplines – 400 meters, 800 meters, hammer throw, pole vault. And it certainly does not explain the whole 10% difference.”
It’s a complicated issue. But what about high school? “At a high school level, many trans youth do delay their puberty, which means that even if they are not taking these gender-affirming hormones, their natural puberty in their biological sex is not happening, therefore resulting in a delay and an absence of an effect on muscle mass, at least for the male-to-female situation. So the supposed advantage of muscle mass and red blood cells because of testosterone becomes moot in middle and often high school competitions when there have been puberty blockers involved.” However, if a student isn’t blocking their puberty, the situation gets blurry again.
Last week, more than 500 student-athletes signed a letter that was sent to the N.C.A.A., pressing the organization to stop holding championship events in states that restrict or aim to restrict transgender athletes.
“You have been silent in the face of hateful legislation in states that are slated to host championships, even though those states are close to passing anti-transgender legislation,” the letter read.
Legislation on a federal level has also been introduced. Representative Greg Steube of Florida, a Republican, for example, in January introduced the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2021, which would designate sex as “based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth” and make it illegal for operators of sports programs that receive federal funds “to permit a person whose sex is male to participate in an athletic program or activity that is designated for women or girls.”
A similar bill was introduced in the Senate by Mike Lee of Utah, also a Republican, last month.
The bills were sent to committees for review. In previous sessions, similar bills have not advanced.
Here’s what people said after hearing out the dad
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