The fight for equality (literally)

Whilst the LGBTQ community have overcome many challenges in the fight for equality it is clear that the struggle is far from over. After the recent news of a transgender teen being forced to compete in a girl’s wrestling tournament, the rights of the transgender community are once again called into question. Mack Beggs, a 17 year old boy from Texas, was told he must compete in an all-female tournament. This was in accordance with a State policy that requires student athletes to compete as the same gender printed on their birth certificate. Beggs had been undergoing hormone therapy, which would have placed him at an obvious advantage over his female athletes – his intake of testosterone being a likely physical disadvantage for other female participants. With Beggs being denied the opportunity of fair competition and other athletes forfeiting due to an alleged risk of harm, it’s time to ask who this policy really benefits.

This is a clear act of discrimination which has led to further marginalisation of transgender athletes. Prior to the match, he faced hostility from the parents and coaches of his competitors for his use of steroids which are used to help aid his transition. This was followed with concerns over whether the match would remain fair, and rightfully so. However, this lead to pressure for him to make a decision on whether he should continue in the match and whether he should continue hormone therapy. Beggs told CBS news that he had been holding back on testosterone treatments as he didn’t want to cheat or make the competition bias in his favour. This dilemma would have caused unquestionable distress, as his usage of steroids is what allows him to comfortably transition to male. A lack of these steroids would therefore compromise his transitioning process.

Moreover, this also calls into question the system’s apparent lack of consideration for the protection and welfare of transgender athletes. Whilst it was made clear that he would rather compete against other males, Beggs was given the choice to either compete against girls or to quit wrestling. This choice impacts upon two important aspects of his life, his right to his preferred gender identity and his passion for wrestling. Making him participate within an all-female category shows a complete disregard for his wellbeing, not to mention the humiliation he would have experienced from being a male in a female competition. Yet despite the setbacks and pressures he was facing, Beggs achieved the title of state champion as a result of his talent and determination. However, this still highlights a clear hindrance that the transgender community faces in the struggle for acceptance.

The policy proves that there is a clear lack of understanding for young people who identify as transgender. Whilst this was allegedly employed as a means to make competition fair for athletes, this is not the case for Beggs and the female athletes who had to compete at the risk of a possible disadvantage. It’s time for the State of Texas to rethink its policies regarding the rights of transgender citizens, and to prevent such discrimination from taking place again. Until changes are made, the struggle for the LGBTQ community will continue.

Rachael Dickinson

(Image courtesy of Leslie Plaza Johnson for Icon Sportswire)

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