Amelia Gapin

Amelia Gapin

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.



I finally found a few minutes to write a bit, in my own words, about all this media coverage around trans women running #BostonMarathon. http://www.amelia.run/posts/2018-04-10-boston-marathon-media/ … #runchatpic.twitter.com/wNoc5A0a9p

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).

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.

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.

Mack Beggs is a just kid who wants to compete in the sport he loves. Texas gave him 2 options: wrestle with girls or quit. He wrestles.

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.


Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

True

The energy in a hospital can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether you’re experiencing it as a patient, visitor or employee. However, there are a few one-of-a-kind individuals like Elaine Ahn, an operating room registered nurse in Diamond Bar, California, who thrive under this type of constant pressure.

Keep Reading Show less
via Pexels

If you know how to fix this tape, you grew up in the 1990s.

There are a lot of reasons to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the final days of the 20th century. Rampant inflation, a global pandemic and political unrest have created a sense of uneasiness about the future that has everyone feeling a bit down.

There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.

But, you gotta admit, that TV is still pretty damn good.

A lot of folks feel Americans have become a lot harsher to one another due to political divides, which seem to be widening by the day due to the power of the internet and partisan media.

Keep Reading Show less
Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

Screenshot taken from a live video of the trial.

A recent (and fairly insensitive) sketch from “Saturday Night Live” said it best regarding the widespread fixation many have on the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial:

“It’s not the most pertinent story of the moment, but with all the problems in the world, isn’t it nice to have a news story we can all collectively watch and say ‘glad it ain't me?’”

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Trial Cold Open - SNL www.youtube.com

Schadenfreude, celebrity fascination and previously inaccessible information now being at our fingertips is a potent combination in this trial, making amateur lawyers and psychologists of all who feel compelled to unleash their hot takes. And though the right to converse and speculate exists, is it always in our best interests to do so? Especially when it means potentially spreading misinformation, or at the cost of empathy and compassion?

Keep Reading Show less
Photo from Upworthy Library

A proud sloth dad was caught on camera.

Teddy the two-toed sloth has become a proud papa and thanks to a video posted by the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, we all get to witness the adorable reunion with his newborn son.

Mama sloth, aka Grizzly, gave birth to their healthy little one in Feb 2022, which delighted more than 3,000 people on Facebook.



The video, posted to the Florida zoo’s YouTube page, shows Grizzly slowly climbing toward her mate, who is at first blissfully unaware as he continues munching on leaves. Typical dad.

Keep Reading Show less