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A Texas rule forces students to choose between sports and being themselves.

Mack Beggs is just a 17-year-old boy who loves wrestling.

A Texas rule forces students to choose between sports and being themselves.

Sometimes, rules have unintended consequences. 17-year-old Texas wrestler Mack Beggs is dealing with one of them.

In February 2016, Texas school superintendents voted on a University Interscholastic League rule to require that student athletes compete as the gender listed on their birth certificates. The vote, which passed with 95% support, was intended to restrict transgender athletes from participating as their identified gender.

Just over a year later, Beggs, a transgender boy from Trinity High School in Euless, Texas, won the state championship in wrestling — in the girls' division.


Beggs competes at the Texas Wrestling State Tournament. Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via AP Images.

Those new rules prohibited Beggs from competing against other boys — as he wanted to — putting him in the awkward position of having to quit wrestling or compete in the girls division.

"Wrestling is my life," wrote Beggs on his Facebook page. Some parents argued that taking testosterone gives Beggs an advantage over the girls he's wrestling against — and they'd probably be right, which is why the NCAA and International Olympic Committee both have policies outlining under what circumstances transgender athletes can compete against athletes of the same gender and when they should have to compete against athletes of the gender they were assigned at birth. The Texas UIL policy, however, eliminates a lot of important nuance.

Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via AP Images.

The Texas school superintendents knew that this might happen when they voted in 2016.

Chris Mosier, a three-time member of the U.S. National Team in duathlon and triathlon, tried to warn the Texas superintendents ahead of the 2016 vote, calling the policy a "a barrier to inclusion." As it turns out, he was right.

Mosier is the vice president of program development at You Can Play and founder of TransAthlete.com. He's also transgender.

"No athlete should have to choose between being an athlete and being their authentic self," says Mosier. "Transgender youth should have the same opportunities to compete in athletics as their cisgender peers. Mack is an athlete who just wants to compete in the sport he loves, and this is the only option Texas UIL gave him to continue to compete."

"For all young people," Mosier says, "participation in sports is recognized as an important aspect of developing positive self-esteem and an understanding of leadership, teamwork, communication skills, goal setting, determination, and a host of other positive values. It creates a connection to community and a sense of belonging. All students, including transgender students, should have the opportunity to participate in sport."

Mosier attends the Body at the ESPYs party in 2016. Photo by Dave Mangels/Getty Images.

There are some really simple things anyone can do to create a welcoming and inclusive space for transgender student athletes.

Whether you're a fellow student, parent, coach, teacher, or community member, one of the most basic things you can do to make trans students feel welcome is by affirming their identity. Using their correct name and pronouns is a great start.

The second thing that needs to happen is for administrators to shift from implementing exclusionary rules that create barriers for trans athletes and look to adopt policies that integrate trans students into school athletics. Mosier's website links to some helpful policy documents and guides that help debunk some of harmful myths about trans athletes.

One other thing you can do to show your support for equality is to get involved with organizations that promote inclusion for LGBTQ athletes such as You Can Play and TransAthlete.

Mosier at the 2016 GLAAD Amplified panel in 2016. Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for Advertising Week New York.

Policies vary wildly by state, which is why we need national guidance on policy for trans athletes — one that doesn't exclude anyone.

"There are transgender students in the state of Texas right now who are competing with the gender with which they identify because they changed their birth certificate," says Mosier. "But transgender students shouldn't have to jump through legal hoops in order to have an experience similar to their peers."

Gavin Grimm's upcoming Supreme Court case about how trans students fit into Title IX protections might provide that that clarity, but until then, it's on us to advocate on behalf of trans student athletes who just want to play sports like other kids.

As far as Beggs' wrestling future is concerned, there's a lot to be determined between now and the start of next season.

Jamey Harrison, the deputy director of the state UIL, the organization behind the birth certificate policy, told The Associated Press that "given the overwhelming support for that rule, I don't expect it to change anytime soon."

If it's overwhelming support that's keeping the discriminatory rule in place, don't forget what you can do to show that you don't stand by those views: (1) Use correct names and pronouns, (2) let your school know you want trans-inclusive athletic policies, and (3) get involved with organizations like You Can Play.

Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via AP Images.

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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