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Trans Athletes Would Need to Compete with Others of Their Biological Sex in South Dakota

Legislation seeks to address issue of biology vs. gender choice

South Dakota is looking to answer this question once and for all: Should transgender high school students compete against others of their own biological sex in athletics — or against those of their chosen gender?

Two Republican legislators in the state introduced a bill on Monday titled Senate Bill 49 — proposing the former.

This would undo a 2015 policy from the South Dakota High School Activities Association, which instead focused on the student’s chosen gender identity — without any requirements pertaining to hormone levels.

State Sen. Jim Bolin (R-Canton), athletic director for the Canton Public Schools district from 1996 to 2007, is one of those who proposed the bill.

He said he would like the law in his state to look like the one set forth by the Texas University Interscholastic League, which “requires that students participate on sports teams that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificate,” as the Argus Leader pointed out.

Bolin argued, “I believe the activities association is a very good group, but I think they made a bad decision when they implemented this policy four, five years ago. We have sports that are set up [differently for boys and girls] — boys go over 39-inch hurdles in 110 meters and girls have to clear 33-inch hurdles in 100-meter hurdles [in track and field]. We have a smaller ball for girls basketball than we do for boys basketball. If we’re going to have these modifications, then my point is that the birth certificate should be the determining factor in which team you play on. It’s all about fair competition.”

Bolin previously proposed similar legislation in 2015, which passed in the South Dakota House but stalled in the Senate, both of which were (and still are) controlled by Republicans.

On Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” Wednesday night, host Laura Ingraham discussed the proposed legislation, which she supports.

“I don’t think it’s good for the trans athletes,” she said of competing based on gender identity. “I don’t think this is good for the young women. I don’t understand how this is good at any level. I think it’s a basic fairness question.” She said she hoped there would “be a solution that makes sense to this.”

The Fox News host recalled her own high school field hockey days at Glastonbury High School in Connecticut — and noted that while her team made it to the state championships, they also decisively lost a pickup game to their school’s boys soccer team because of the biological differences.

More recently in Connecticut, giving male-to-female transgender athletes the opportunity to compete as the gender in which they now identify has resulted in great success for biological males against female athletes.

Last year a pair of male-to-female transgender athletes in Connecticut, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, finished first and second respectively in the 100 meter dash in the outdoor track and field state championships — provoking the ire of local parents.

The mother of one of the kids who competed against the trans athletes, Bianca Stanescu, circulated a petition to change the rule in her state. She shared her thoughts on “The Ingraham Angle” on Wednesday night and said she’s unhappy with her state’s policy, though not with the kids themselves.

“It’s the rule,” Stanescu said. “What Terry Miller made us aware of is that one day you can compete as a male and the next [day], you can compete as a female. Miller competed as a male up until the end of the indoor season in 2018 — only to start the outdoor season two weeks later and compete as a female. So the question is: How is this possible?”

Even Joanna Harper, a medical physicist and transgender athlete, did not think this was fair.

“On average, men will run races 10 to 12 percent faster than women,” said Harper, also a guest on the program. “That is why we separate male and female athletes. After hormone therapy, trans athletes lose much of their advantage.”

“Most high school athletes are not that serious about their sports,” Harper also offered. “In those cases where you’re talking about state championships and scholarships, I certainly would not let a trans woman compete without undergoing hormonal therapy.”

Men also have 40 percent more muscle mass in their upper bodies than women do, on average, and 33 percent more in the lower body.

It’s increasingly common today to see transgender women who are biologically male compete against biological women. They are playing professional women’s hockey, running in marathons as women, winning world cycling championships — and more.

This, despite the obvious biological differences between men and women.

The average man’s testosterone level is about 10 times higher than that of a woman, as The Journal of Applied Physiology indicates. Plus, the average man has 26.4 more pounds of muscle than the average woman (72.6 vs. 46.2).

Men also have 40 percent more muscle mass in their upper bodies than women do, on average, and 33 percent more in the lower body.

Still, not everyone agrees that transgender athletes should compete with those of their biological sex.

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota opposes the new legislative proposal — and its policy director, Libby Skarin, argued it would hurt transgender student-athletes.

“Barring transgender students from the benefits of athletics holds them back from living authentic and fulfilling lives,” he said in a statement. “Participation in athletic activities has a widespread impact on the social, physical and emotional well-being of students and provides kids with lessons about self-discipline, teamwork, perseverance, success and failure. They bring excitement, joy and a sense of belonging — a sense that is important for all kids, but particularly for kids who may already feel like outcasts.”

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Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, and other outlets.