The next time someone says trans people shouldn't get to play sports, send them this.

This article originally appeared on 04.16.18


For about a week before the 2018 Boston Marathon, news outlets around the country were busy freaking out about the idea of transgender athletes competing.

Specifically, the worry seemed to be that trans women (people who transitioned from male to female) would have an unfair advantage over cisgender (non-trans) women. Right-wing commentator and anti-trans ideologue Ben Shapiro painted the decision as a type of slippery slope that will eventually lead to the abolition of gender categories as a whole, saying, "Biological women will never win a marathon — ever — in history because men are faster than women on average."

Do Shapiro and others skeptical about the idea of trans women competing with other women in sporting events have a point? Not really.


If trans women have such an advantage, why haven't there been any truly dominant trans athletes? Because they don't.

A few years back, I wrote a fairly detailed breakdown of trans athletes' fight to be able to compete in the sports they love for Vice Sports. The article, "Heroes, Martyrs, and Myths: The Battle for the Rights of Transgender Athletes," centered around Minnesota's struggle to determine how to handle trans athletes. But the research remains relevant whenever these sorts of controversies arise — which, sadly, is pretty often.

The argument goes like this: Because cisgender (or those who identify with the gender assigned to them at birth) boys and men are typically stronger and faster than cisgender girls and women, transgender girls and women should have to compete against cisgender boys and men.

But this argument leaves out the important fact that trans girls and women are not the same as cis boys and men, especially trans girls and women who've undergone hormone replacement therapy.

In 1976, a trans tennis player by the name of Reneé Richards wanted to compete in the women's division at the U.S. Open. At the time, a number of people argued that she had an unfair advantage and would dominate the women's circuit.

A quick look at the stats shows that's not the case. Prior to her transition, Richards competed in the men's division, where she was fairly mediocre (two wins, five losses). Post-transition, competing against women, she was ... also fairly mediocre (66 wins, 110 losses).

A 1977 photo of Renee Richards on the tennis court. Photo by Gaffney/Liaison.

Since then, a handful of openly trans athletes have surfaced, almost all with the same "unfair advantage" bogeyman attached to them. Trans mixed martial arts fighter Fallon Fox was never as dominant as people warned (to date, she has a career record of four wins and one loss), never making it to the UFC. In fact, in Fox's only fight against a fighter who would eventually compete in the UFC, she was knocked out in the third round.

There are no trans LeBron Jameses dominating the WNBA or trans Cristiano Ronaldos racking up Women's World Cup victories. There's a good reason for that: Despite concerns, trans women really don't have an athletic advantage.

Hormones play a big role in determining what sort of advantage an athlete has — or doesn't have.

"Research suggests that androgen deprivation and cross sex hormone treatment in male-to-female transsexuals reduces muscle mass," said Dr. Eric Vilain, professor and director of the Center for Gender-Based Biology and Chief Medical Genetics Department of Pediatrics at UCLA in a 2010 report. "Accordingly, one year of hormone therapy is an appropriate transitional time before a male-to-female student-athlete competes on a women's team."

In other words, after about a year on hormones, pretty much any advantage a trans woman might have had will be wiped out.

Golfer Mianne Bagger became the first trans woman to qualify for the Ladies European Tour in 2004. She never won a pro tournament. Photo by Fabrizio Villa/AFP/Getty Images.

This is why an increasing number of entities are establishing reasonable rules when it comes to determining a trans athlete's eligibility. The NCAA and International Olympic Committee both require that trans women undergo hormone replacement therapy before competing in women's divisions.

Anti-trans policies aimed at trans women often wind up creating situations where actual advantages exist — for trans men.

In both 2017 and 2018, high school wrestler Mack Beggs took home the state championship in the girls division. Many say Beggs had an unfair advantage, and they're absolutely right: Beggs is a trans boy who takes testosterone to treat his gender dysphoria. He wanted to compete against other boys, but a Texas state rule says that athletes must compete against the gender listed on their birth certificate.

Beggs was left with an impossible decision: compete against girls, end medical treatment, or quit the sport he loves. He chose to compete. After all, it's not his fault that ridiculous rules forced him into a division where he doesn't belong, and he really shouldn't have to stop his medical treatment or quit a sport just because of it. Trans athlete Chris Mosier came to Beggs' defense on Twitter.

Originally, The Federalist, a hard-right anti-trans blog argued that Beggs should compete against other boys — because they thought he was a trans girl (emphasis mine):

"There's also a distinct athletic advantage for men who transition to women and play on high school and collegiate teams. It's so clear one would have to be blind not to see how fraudulent this is, given men's innately greater physical strength compared to women. Transgender male-to-female boy Mack Beggs made waves earlier this year because he won two girls' wrestling championships in Texas. It's easy to see why, as a person born male, complete with the testosterone and build of a biological boy, he might have an advantage over female competitors in wrestling."

Once they realized they'd accidentally made the point advocates for trans rights had been making, the site quickly tried to revamp its argument, saying it wasn't about "innate" characteristics at all, but the advantage or lack thereof that hormone replacement therapy offers:

"There's also a distinct athletic advantage for men who transition to women and play on high school and collegiate teams. It's so clear one would have to be blind not to see how fraudulent this is, given men's innately greater physical strength compared to women. Female-to-male transgender Mack Beggs made waves earlier this year because she won two girls' wrestling championships in Texas while taking testosterone. It's easy to see why testosterone injections might give someone an advantage over female competitors in wrestling."

(Again, emphasis mine up there. Also, a note that the Federalist's style guide appears to call for the intentional misgendering of trans people, which is why Beggs is referred to as "she" here.)

In other words, many of those who make these types of arguments against trans people competing in sports clearly aren't doing so in good faith.

As for the Boston Marathon, those worried about trans women dominating the women's division will be relieved to know that no, a trans woman did not win.

Yet another false alarm in the never-ending quest to "chicken little" the oncoming trans-athlete-apocalypse. In all seriousness, though, huge congrats to Desi Linden, who, while not trans, is an amazing athlete and the winner of the 2018 Boston Marathon.

Desi Linden won the women's division at the 2018 Boston Marathon. Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 12.02.19


Just imagine being an 11-year-old boy who's been shuffled through the foster care system. No forever home. No forever family. No idea where you'll be living or who will take care of you in the near future.

Then, a loving couple takes you under their care and chooses to love you forever.

What could one be more thankful for?

That's why when a fifth grader at Deerfield Elementary School in Cedar Hills, Utah was asked by his substitute teacher what he's thankful for this Thanksgiving, he said finally being adopted by his two dads.

via OD Action / Twitter

To the child's shock, the teacher replied, "that's nothing to be thankful for," and then went on a rant in front of 30 students saying that "two men living together is a sin" and "homosexuality is wrong."

While the boy sat there embarrassed, three girls in the class stood up for him by walking out of the room to tell the principal. Shortly after, the substitute was then escorted out of the building.

While on her way out she scolded the boy, saying it was his fault she was removed.

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One of the boy's parents-to-be is Louis van Amstel, is a former dancer on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." "It's absolutely ridiculous and horrible what she did," he told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We were livid. It's 2019 and this is a public school."

The boy told his parents-to-be he didn't speak up in the classroom because their final adoption hearing is December 19 and he didn't want to do anything that would interfere.

He had already been through two failed adoptions and didn't want it to happen again.

via Loren Javier / Flickr

A spokesperson for the Alpine School District didn't go into detail about the situation but praised the students who spoke out.

"Fellow students saw a need, and they were able to offer support," David Stephenson said. "It's awesome what happened as far as those girls coming forward."

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He also said that "appropriate action has been taken" with the substitute teacher.

"We are concerned about any reports of inappropriate behavior and take these matters very seriously," Kelly Services, the school the contracts out substitute teachers for the district, said in a statement. "We conduct business based on the highest standards of integrity, quality, and professional excellence. We're looking into this situation."

After the incident made the news, the soon-to-be adoptive parents' home was covered in paper hearts that said, "We love you" and "We support you."

Religion is supposed to make us better people.

But what have here is clearly a situation where a woman's judgement about what is good and right was clouded by bigoted dogma. She was more bothered by the idea of two men loving each other than the act of pure love they committed when choosing to adopt a child.