A few weeks ago, I was thinking about girls’ high school athletics. That, and women’s collegiate sports, have been in the news as of late. As I mused about the subject, I couldn’t recall that my high school, Dobyns-Bennett High School of Kingsport, Tennessee, fielded girls’ sports teams. So, I broke out the old senior annual and decided to investigate.
My senior year was the 1968-69 school year. Of course, there was no girl’s football team. That was to be expected. Nor was I anticipating a girl’s baseball team. Nor was there. But girls’ softball, a staple of high school and college sports, wasn’t there. Girls’ basketball? Nope. Neither was there a girls’ track and field team. Surely, there were girls that played on the golf or tennis teams, right? Again, no.
That year, the school sported a swim team. There were 19 students on that inaugural team. Seven of them were girls. As far as I know, they were the first female varsity athletes in the school’s long history which began in 1919. The only other experience available to female athletes, by perusing the annual, was to make the cheerleading team.
The school clubs were filled with both boys and girls but the karate club, which saw itself as more of an athletic team that competed with clubs from two other high schools, had 23 members. Again, all boys. In 1968-69, at least in my high school, which was considered an outstanding and progressive institution, girls were relegated to physical education classes and intermural sports. I assume we were not the exception.
Since I now have twelve grandchildren, nine of them being girls, I have taken great pleasure in watching the boys — and the girls — compete in athletics at some level. My oldest grandchild, a girl, was on the softball and swim teams at her high school. It is now normal for every school to have girls’ athletic teams. But it took a federal law to make it happen.
Title IX is the most commonly used name for the federal civil rights law in the United States that was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. It prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government. The law was signed by President Richard Nixon and became effective in June 1972, a full three years after I graduated.
The practical effect was that almost all schools, even those private and religious schools that do not receive federal dollars, have athletic programs for females at both the high school and university levels. Equality in sports has filtered down since then to include teams for both sexes starting even at very early ages in community programs.
Female athletes compete at every level, including the Olympic and professional levels. Women even compete in professional boxing and mixed martial arts. But they, as do the males, compete against each other — not against the opposite sex, except at the very earliest ages.
But that is all changing. It is fair to say that most males will defeat females in head-to-head athletic competition. There are exceptions. I would never step into a ring or cage with a professional boxer or mixed martial artist, female or not. Anyone who has been around sports, law enforcement, or the military understands that men, as a general rule, are bigger, taller, stronger, faster, and more muscular than their female counterparts.
Now, biological males who are becoming “trans-women” are entering women’s sporting events and beating them every time. Where are the feminists and the pioneers of Title IX these days? When I was involved in martial arts, as a competitor and instructor, I became aware of a man, a green belt, from a certain school. He won first place in his division in every tournament he entered. Was he that good? Well, for a green belt, one of the early intermediate ranks, he was outstanding.
The problem was that he had been a martial artist for something like five years. He should have been in the black belt division. But he wasn’t. He refused promotion and kept winning trophies. It was like a 25-year-old beating up a six-year-old. It was wrong and the instructor who should have refused to let him compete at that level turned a blind eye. The judges had no way of knowing that he was “sandbagging,” our term for such behavior.
Soon he and his instructor became objects of ridicule and derision. Deservedly so. His trophies were worthless and his “victories” hollow. It was thought by most in the martial arts community that he wasn’t man enough to compete with men his own skill level.
Whatever term one chooses to use, a person with male DNA has no business competing in girl’s or woman’s sports. It unfair to the biological females who have trained all their lives for their big moment only to have it snatched away by a sandbagger.
Last month, a 29-year-old biological male, who self-identifies as a female, beat a 13-year-old girl for the top prize in a women’s skateboarding competition in New York City. Where’s the honor in that “victory”?
In March a University of Pennsylvania swimmer who prefers to be called Lia Thomas won a NCAA swimming contest and was hailed as the first transgender athlete to win a Division I championship in any sport. Thomas, by the way, swam for the men’s team at Penn for three years before taking the trophies away from the female athletes.
This has to stop. It makes a mockery of Title IX. It is insulting and demeaning for the women who watch their sports being dominated by increasing numbers of biological males. If high schools, colleges, and the Olympic committee wish to introduce a new “transgender division,” it couldn’t be any more bizarre that what is happening already and it would be preferable than seeing women’s sports destroyed.
Our culture has been enriched in the 50 years since Title IX. Tens of millions of females have gotten to compete in a way that the girls in my high school graduating class never had a chance to do. Whole industries and occupations have been created as a result of Title IX. Even Caitlyn Jenner, the Olympic champion who won a gold medal and set a world record in the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, as Bruce Jenner, told the NCAA, “… this has to stop now.” Jenner also said in an interview, “It’s not good for women’s sports. It’s unfortunate that this is happening.”
On this, Jenner and I are in agreement. This has to stop.
[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). The church has worship services at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but is also live streaming at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life). He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]