Who Are You Callin’ a Girl?

In the debate over transgender biological boys participating as girls in sports, just leave in place the sensible WIAA policies. Legislation at the federal or state level just plays to the culture wars.

This dustup illustrates what’s wrong with a zealous ideological approach to any issue. So here’s the question and it’s an interesting one: should a biological boy who has decided to identify as a girl be allowed to participate in girls’ sports?

Democrats say ‘yes’ and Pres. Joe Biden has signed an executive order to require it in publicly funded schools. Republicans say ‘no’ and they have gone so far as to introduce legislation in Wisconsin and something like 17 other states to prevent it.

I think they’re both wrong. This isn’t a subject that demands the attention of federal or state government action on one side or the other. It should be left to high school athletic governing organizations, like the WIAA here in Wisconsin.

I think that because I don’t see this as a question of fundamental rights, but rather the kind of technical issue around fair competition that is best left to those closest to it. I believe that’s generally a good moderate approach on most issues: try to see it as something largely technical that can be worked out by people of goodwill as opposed to rushing to see it as a bedrock issue of basic rights that must be fought over to the death.

The problem is obvious. By the time they reach puberty, most boys are just bigger, faster and stronger than most girls. In fact, according to a piece on this subject in the Wall Street Journal (the Journal breathlessly claims that this will mean the end of women’s sports — seriously?) there are about 300 high school male track athletes who have times that are faster than the fastest female ever, who is Allyson Felix.

Allyson Felix is the world’s fastest female sprinter. But her times could be beaten by about 300 male high school athletes. So, is it fair to allow biological boys to compete against girls?
Rio de Janeiro – Corredoras dos Estados Unidos Tianna Bartoletta, Allyson Felix, English Gardner e Tori Bowie vencem final do revezamento 4 x 100m nos Jogos Rio 2016, no Estádio Olímpico (Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil)

It’s ironic that liberals, usually strong advocates for women and girls, now support a policy that would make it harder for girls to excel and build self-confidence in their own leagues.

But it’s also ironic that Republicans, who used to be the party that wanted to legislate sparingly and allow for maximum local control, want to dictate this from on high.

Both sides are using this as a volleyball in the culture wars. Each army is now retreating to its fortifications. No prisoners will be taken. If you want to acknowledge the competitive advantage of biological boys, one side will call you a bigot. On the other hand, if you want to recognize that biological boys who identify as girls have legitimate emotional and social reasons to want to participate in activities as girls, then the other side will accuse you of being hopelessly woke.

It’s not clear how big a problem this is in the first place. Nobody seems to have a good handle on how many boys are actually even trying to compete as girls. But the WIAA has some rules on this that seem sensible to me. Established way back in 2013, the WIAA allows transgender girls (girls born as biological boys) to participate in girls’ sports so long as they’ve been on testosterone suppression therapy for at least a year.

That works. Let’s just leave rational policies developed by the governing bodies closest to this in place. And let’s try to balance and support the best interests of all young women without making them collateral damage in yet another culture wars fight.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

2 thoughts on “Who Are You Callin’ a Girl?

  1. These arguments MUST begin with actual science and genetics – the actual facts.

    This is an XX chromosome vs XY chromosome condition.

    If a person has a set of XX chromosome’s then they are genetically a female.

    If a person has a set of XY chromosome’s then they are genetically a male.

    Once you get down to the actual science of what makes up a genetic male and a genetic female all the other arguments become completely irrelevant.

    My opinion: No genetic male should be allowed to compete in sports that are specifically for genetic females & no genetic female should be allowed to compete in sports that are specifically for genetic males.

    If they want to create another coed category of competition that will allow genetic males to compete directly with genetic females then do so, I have absolutely no problem with this.


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