Athletes and Activism: Standing up to transphobia


Brian Reiff

The Texas high school girls’ wrestling state championship ended predictably.

The winning wrestler had been consistently dominant, finishing the season with a record of 56-0 after winning the championship. The outcome of the final match was not surprising — at least not in that sense.

Who was this undefeated champion? Mack Beggs, a 17-year-old transgender boy.

Born with female genitalia, Beggs was forced to compete against girls because of a policy enacted by the University Interscholastic League, which acts as the governing body for public high school athletics in the state. The relevant rule states that athletes must compete against the gender listed on their birth certificate.

According to his family and the attorney suing the UIL over Beggs’ eligibility, Beggs had requested to wrestle in the male division. Nevertheless, he competed and won against girls, facing off against opponents as well as criticism on his way to the top.

This contentious performance came at the end of a week in which President Donald Trump withdrew protections that allowed transgender students in public schools to use the bathroom aligning with their gender identity. The move, which quickly made its way into national discourse, calls into question the truthfulness of the president’s earlier promise to protect the LGBTQ community from violence and oppression.

In an era when we are supposed to be making progress, this is a shameful act from an administration that ostensibly supports the rights of all Americans.

Even Betsy Devos, who many feel lacks experience in public schooling, initially opposed the move because of the harm it could have on transgender students, according to The New York Times.

I generally disagree with Devos, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Rescinding these protections is a massive step backward for this country. Rights, especially those as basic as going to the bathroom in a safe and comfortable environment, should be guaranteed for all Americans, including those who identify as transgender. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Texas, the same state in which Beggs won the state wrestling championship, recently proposed a bill that would require its citizens to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender assigned at birth.

In response, the NFL threatened to withhold future events like the Super Bowl from the state if discriminatory proposals like the bathroom bill were passed.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is.

Last March, North Carolina passed the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, or HB2, which mandated that people use the bathroom corresponding to their birth gender and failed to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and identity.

The NBA responded in July, announcing that its All-Star Game would not take place in North Carolina as was originally planned because of the bill.

The NBA wasn’t the only organization to relocate its events because of HB2. In September, the NCAA announced that seven sporting events, including first and second round games of the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, would be moved out of North Carolina because of the law.

These three organizations are just a few of the many that have stood up against the blatant prejudice that exists around the country and has become more prevalent because of the president’s endorsement of intolerance. It’s not just organizations that are standing up though — people, and specifically athletes, are doing so as well.

In one of the most iconic pro-transgender speeches in recent memory, Caitlyn Jenner urged acceptance of and respect for the transgender community during her acceptance of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2015 ESPYs. She also talked about how vital it is for transgender kids to feel comfortable with who they are.

“If you want to call me names, make jokes and doubt my intentions, go ahead, because the reality is I can take it,” Jenner said. “But for thousands of kids out there coming to terms with the reality of who they are, they shouldn’t have to take it.”

Mack Beggs is one of those kids.

And while he may have won his trophy, he’ll lose a lot more than that if the Trump administration continues down its current path.

Brian Reiff, ’17, is the deputy sports editor for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected].

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