Not long ago, I watched my daughter, a college freshman, play a dual match on her college tennis team. Every time I watched her serve an ace, I thought about how much effort, time, and commitment it took for her to earn a college tennis scholarship. I remembered the 5 a.m. trips to the tennis club before school because she decided she needed extra work on her serve. Some competitive junior tennis players humorously wear T-shirts that read, “I Can’t, I Have Tennis” because that’s what they have to say so often to their friends.
The men’s team at my daughter’s college was also competing in the same location on that day. From a glance down to the men’s courts, it was evident that the women’s tennis team would stand no chance competing against the men’s team. No one could honestly make a case to the contrary. The observation is rooted in visible biological reality. Simply put, males are (in general) taller, heavier, stronger, and faster than their female counterparts. These male athletic advantages persist even when a man chooses to pursue testosterone suppression.
Yet some today would have us believe biological sex has no bearing whatsoever on athletic advantage or disadvantage—that female athletes shouldn’t complain when competing against a (biologically male) transgender woman. Yet this erasure of biological sex is a gross injustice—not only against the athletes forced into co-ed competition, but also against the God who created male and female bodies to be beautifully different.
Case of Lia Thomas
Recently, a 22-year-old swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania shattered records and dominated the Ivy League championships, winning in the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle. Though a fifth-year senior, this is the first season Lia Thomas has competed on the women’s swim team for Penn because, for the first three seasons, Lia (then known as William) competed on the men’s swim team.
While competing on the men’s team, William never performed well enough to make the field of the men’s NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Championships, but since coming out as transgender and switching to the women’s team, Lia is seeded number one in the Ivy League and is expected to give former Olympic champions a run for their money at the women’s NCAA Championships. None of this is surprising since Lia is a biologically male collegiate swimmer competing against females.
Erasing Title IX Protections
Allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports is nothing less than an assault on women’s athletics. Ignoring the reality of biological sex in athletics harms all of us, but make no mistake, it disproportionally harms women. Acknowledging biological differences in athletic competitions is as necessary as acknowledging differences of age in youth sports or school size in team sports competitions. We all know this. This is why we don’t consider classifications in high school sports, age requirements in youth athletics, or weight classes in boxing as forms of discrimination. In fact, they’re the opposite: ways of protecting and empowering opportunities for achievement and success.
Acknowledging biological differences in athletic competitions is as necessary as acknowledging differences of age in youth sports or school size in team sports competitions.
I’m a Christian husband, father of eight children (three boys and five girls), pastor, and a seminary professor. I hold unapologetically to biblical morality and ethics regarding the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, and I oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage. But I also think the absurdity of allowing biological males to compete against girls and women is so clearly wrongheaded it doesn’t demand a Christian worldview to point out its folly. Former women’s tennis legend and LGBT+ activist Martina Navratilova recently tweeted, “It is not fair for women to race against transgender Lia Thomas.”
Title IX is a portion of the United States Education Amendments of 1972 designed to ensure equal opportunities in programs and activities for biological females. The amendment is probably best known for its effect on high school and college athletics. Title IX reads:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
Title IX prohibits sex discrimination and permits sex segregation in athletics, which means that, for the most part, men compete against men, and women compete against women. Forbidding sex segregation in sports by allowing the absurdity that “sex” is determined by non-verifiable gender identity rather than biological sex makes any attempt to enforce Title IX nonsensical. Thus, the protections that Title IX has afforded girls and women are thereby erased.
War on Reality
This kind of gender chaos is a war on reality. But if we play along, the result will be the end of girls’ and women’s sports. No amount of 5 a.m. serve practices would have helped my daughter to compete with biologically male tennis athletes for college tennis scholarships.
Ainsely Erzen, an Iowa high school student who won the 800-meter national championship in track, recently wrote a guest column for the Des Moines Register. She pointed out that the time that made her the fastest 800-meter girls runner in Iowa history and a female national champion was bested by 85 boys at the Iowa state track meet. She pled for the Iowa Athletic Union to act, to “be bold enough and brave enough to stand up for the hundreds of girls who rely on you to be able to continue to do what they love.”
No amount of 5 a.m. serve practices would have helped my daughter to compete with biologically male tennis athletes for college tennis scholarships.
To be clear, my ire with the Lia Thomas situation lies not with the athlete but with the NCAA rules (also being adopted by the International Olympic Committee and many high school state athletic associations) allowing this injustice to continue. February 2 was National Girls and Women in Sports Day. I took great joy in all the pictures parents, coaches, and teams posted of girl and women athletes, but it also made me concerned about the future of girls’ and women’s sports.
According to the apostle Paul, pursuing a perishable wreath of victory can be used to point to and learn about an imperishable one in Christ (1 Cor. 9:25). When we see injustice on the playing field, we need to speak up.