July 18, 2024

Making a mountain out of a transgender mole hill

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With the Olympic Trials underway and the Paris Olympics set to begin in in just over two weeks, the world’s best athletes are on the forefront of everyone’s minds.

Including athletes like Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer who recently lost a legal battle challenging a ban on trans women competing at the highest levels of women’s swimming. This makes her unable to compete in the Olympics this season.

Now, I’m not going to comment on whether I think Lia should or shouldn’t be allowed to compete because I think it’s very complicated. There certainly are advantages one would have being born male, even after taking estrogen. However, it breaks my heart to think someone so talented and so passionate is not allowed to compete anywhere because there isn’t a place for her.

Whether you believe Lia should or should not be able to compete, we should be able to agree on a few things. First of all, death threats and mistreatment of Lia because of her passion is extremely out of place. You can disagree without being hateful.

The second is that Lia did not transition to become a female simply to win swimming awards. As a junior in college, Lia began transitioning, coming out to her friends and coaches at the University of Pennsylvania.

If you’ve never taken estrogen, let me tell you - it’s no joke. Side effects include headaches, nausea, weight gain, mood swings, depression and so much more. I could barely get out of bed taking estrogen let alone do any kind of physical activity.

The amount of extra work transgender athletes have to go through to overcome their hormone therapy is undeniably insane.

An article posted by Newsweek reads, “To force young women to compete with male-bodied athletes will bring about the collapse of women’s sports. It will usher in a world where girls recognize the futility of striving to become the next Martina Navratilova, Sheryl Swoopes, Jackie Joyner-Kersee or Mia Hamm. It will strip young women of all the hard-earned entitlements of Title IX. And for what? A cynical contest whose fairness no honest observer will credit? A few limp claps from spectators who know—long before the starter pistol is fired—that the contest is fixed?”

This article seems to present this massive influx of transgender women taking over high school and collegiate sports, barreling down any cisgendered woman in their way.

In reality, U.S. News shares less than 0.05% of high school athletes are transgender and in 2023, there were roughly 30 transgender athletes. This is including both male and female transgender athletes. Even if all 30 athletes were transgender women, that’s 30 out of more than 522,000 NCAA and 60,000 junior college athletes.

So to put it in perspective, that is 0.005% of college athletes. So again, why are we making a mountain out of a mole hill? Why is this a hot-button topic?

For some reason, people seem to believe men are out there “becoming” women just to win awards. But what is the award worth when it comes with death threats? Hateful people have taken these awards and twisted them into something not to be proud of. What good is becoming a champion when people will look at you like a thief?

There is no glory in winning as a transgender woman. The world has stripped that away. All that’s left is the passion of the sport. The love of the game. These are human beings simply trying to continue to compete.

I think of Nikki Hiltz and the condemnation they will receive as a transgender non-binary track star in the Paris Olympics. They ran a 3:55.33 at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, breaking the women’s 1500m record of 3:58.03 from 2021.

After coming out as transgender and non-binary in 2019, they have made it a point to dedicate their career to the LGBTQ community. Their win sparked false discord online.

Isaac’s Army tweeted “Nikki Hiltz a biological man is headed to the Olympics to represent the USA after destroying the female competitors in the Olympic trials... Do you believe this is fair?”

You see, people see transgender and believe they have a right to narrate someone else’s story. But Hiltz isn’t biologically male. Hiltz has decided to postpone testosterone treatment and other gender-affirming surgeries to be able to continue competing.

I can’t imagine the mental toll it must take on Nikki to continue to live in a body they feel uncomfortable in so they are allowed to continue to compete at the highest level.

So when you see hateful or assumptive comments online, have compassion and empathy. Remember not to take things at face value. Above all, keep in mind we are all humans with a love for competition.

Cheyenne Roche


Originally from Wisconsin, Cheyenne has a journalism and political science degree from UW-Eau Claire and a passion for reading and learning. She lives in Creston with her husband and their two little dogs.