Take it from an athlete: We don’t need saving

March 17, 2021 4:40 pm

Lucy Hochschartner (Courtesy of Lucy Hochschartner)

The so-called “Save Women’s Sports Act,” or House Bill 112, claims to save women’s sports by banning transgender athletes. I am a cisgender woman, meaning that I was assigned female at birth and identify as a woman. I am an athlete. In other words, I am exactly who this bill apparently saves. The only problem? I don’t want it.

It is hard to be a female athlete. For instance, as an elite biathlete (cross-country skiing and target shooting) I can be found freezing my fingers at the shooting range or sweating it out on a long summer rollerski. Female athletes put our bodies through the wringer, just like our male counterparts, but we also deal with a long history of discrimination and exclusion. This bill is not about saving women’s sports. It is merely a vehicle for Rep. John Fuller to push through his anti-trans discriminatory agenda. If he really wanted to save women’s sports, he would address any number of the concerns listed in the Women’s Sports Foundation’s 2020 Chasing Equity report. In this nearly 100-page report, transgender participation is not once mentioned as a problem. Not once.

As someone who has spent my entire life in women’s sports – from after school activities, to NCAA Championships, to the international stage – I can firmly say that I have more expertise than sponsor Rep. Fuller. The Women’s Sports Foundation, 176 athletes in women’s sports (including soccer star Megan Rapinoe and tennis groundbreaker Billy Jean King), and I all agree that we want our non-cisgender peers to participate. We’re not concerned, so why are Montana legislators?

If we’re concerned about anything, it should be these bills!

Associated Press analysis suggested that North Carolina would lose $3.76 billion in business during 12 years due to their anti-transgender legislation, which has been partially repealed. There is also real concern that these bills would prevent us from hosting postseason NCAA competitions.

Even after all of this, some people still may be asking, “Well, do you think you could beat an elite man?” The answer is no, I do not. However, transgender women are not men, and these questions of fairness are not nearly as clear cut as the bill pretends they are. We do not have clear answers about biological advantages that transgender women may have. What we do know is that the advantages are not so great that they are ruining women’s sports. We already have amazing transgender women competing everywhere from high school, to college, to Olympic Trials, and cisgender women like me still have opportunities to thrive.

We also know that transgender and gender non-conforming people face pervasive discrimination. In fact, the American Medical Association calls violence against transgender people an “epidemic,” and rates of suicide are far higher for transgender and non-binary youth than cisgender youth. And we know that sport changes lives. Participation in sports has physical benefits like a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, academic benefits like higher high school graduation rates and college attendance, and psychological benefits like improved self-esteem and sense of well-being. No one should be denied these opportunities.

As a female athlete, I am horrified that legislators are misrepresenting me and using me as an excuse to spread hate when our story is one of hard-won inclusion. Today, transgender women are demanding their shot, because transgender women are women and women are athletes. Cisgender and transgender women together are ready to keep breaking barriers. We don’t need anyone telling us how to do it. Hop on some skis and race me sometime; I bet you’ll find I don’t need saving.

Lucy Hochschartner is an elite biathlete based in Bozeman,  who spent the winter racing for and representing the United States on the IBU Cup Circuit and at Open European Championships. She also played youth soccer, ran high-school track and cross-country, and was an NCAA nordic skier.

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