Get the Facts, Not the Political Rhetoric, in the Trans Athlete Debate

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My first sports column for the Times Union in 2007 addressed the complexity of youth sports. For 10 years, I have written about the achievements of young people while shedding light on the many controversies generated by the boom in youth sports programs that shattered the idyllic days of child-organized pickup games.

As a journalist, I attended a program by the author of the book “Just Let the Kids Play”. Bob Bigelow, a former NBA player, spoke at a Capital District youth basketball clinic about his journey as a youth sports parent. One of his observations that led to his book was the statistics showing that too many kids are burnt out and hate sports by the time they reach high school. In many cases, it’s the fault of overzealous parents and coaches.

In today’s debate over transgender athletes, it is now overzealous lawmakers who think they know what is best for girls and women in sport.

It is unfortunately difficult to follow anti-trans legislation nationwide. But recently, two Republican governors vetoed anti-trans legislation in their states. As lawmakers in GOP-dominated states jump on the bandwagon to ban transgender students from participating in women’s and women’s athletics, one governor’s statement stands out:

After highlighting statistics on the high percentage of trans students who attempt suicide, Utah Governor Spencer Cox wondered why “so much fear and anger[have]been directed at if little”.

“I want them to live,” he added. “And all the research shows that even a little acceptance and connection can significantly reduce suicidal tendencies.”

Unfortunately, the Utah state legislature voted to override the governor’s veto, making the state the 12th in the nation to pass similar legislation.

Last month, Governor Eric Holcomb of Indiana, a Republican, also vetoed a similar bill, saying it would most likely have been challenged in court. In addition to threats of federal lawsuits, states are threatened by sports leagues promising to take their teams and games elsewhere in addition to civil rights lawsuits.

Where is our sympathy?


I urge anyone who thinks these state laws preserve the integrity of women’s sports to check out some of the discussions and articles I’ve absorbed on the subject. Listen to the “Rires permis” podcast hosted by Julie Foudy and produced by Lynn Olszowy. Their interview with WNBA star Layshia Clarendon gave my personal feeling about the clarity of the legislation by providing me with important information and facts.

Clarendon knows best to be the league’s first openly trans, non-binary player, who uses the pronouns he/him, she/her, and they/them interchangeably. They are also first vice president of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association. Her profile by Katie Barnes on the cover of ESPN magazine is stellar. They are a parent, an activist, an all-star and a Christian.

In the podcast, Clarendon, citing examples from the NCAA, the Olympics, and science, highlights so many intersecting issues surrounding the complicated debate of trans athletes in sports.

They say so much better what I struggle to communicate to other athletes and friends who want my opinion after Lia Thomas in late March became the first known transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I swimming championship. I was particularly heartbroken by the photo of Thomas on the podium standing alone as other medalists celebrated separately.

• Lindsay Kagawa Colas, the agent representing basketball stars Brittney Griner, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart and Paige Bueckers, writes about Griner in a commentary for the LA Times: Why Brittney Griner was in Russia, and what he says about women’s sports in the United States (Los Angeles Times)

NWSL: Angel City FC wins the NWSL regular season opener in front of a star-studded, celebratory crowd in Los Angeles. The NWSL season kicked off with Angel City’s 2-1 sellout win over the Carolina Courage in front of 22,000 fans. (CBS Sports).

This column is sponsored by Times Union [email protected], the Capital Region’s network of business and professional women. Join us today on: https://womenatworkny.com.


Here’s an article I recommend that comprehensively covers the debate over testosterone levels, gender identity, and what constitutes a level playing field: “The trans swimmer who won too much,” by Louisa Thomas published in the New Yorker.

The rules will continue to evolve, and I hope we develop ways to make it work through continued progress, not hateful words towards trans athletes who earn too much. On Saturday, a New York Times article revealed that road racing debuted in a non-binary category. “Non-binary runners have been here all the timethe piece is titled.

As the WNBA continues to lead the way in equality and women’s rights, Clarendon is once again at the forefront. They announced in early April the formation of the Layshia Clarendon Foundation.

“Gender-affirming healthcare saves lives. It saved my life. It must be accessible and abundant. But it’s not,” they tweeted. “To my trans and non-binary brothers and sisters. I love you and I see you, I will never stop fighting for you and for us and for our liberation.

Join me in showing compassion for young trans athletes by supporting the Layshia Clarendon Foundation.

Just let trans kids and trans athletes play.

[email protected] • @joyceb10bassett • timesunion.com/author/joyce-bassett

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