By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily
Although it may not be an issue in Wyoming now, state Sen. Wendy Schuler (R-Evanston) wants to make sure it doesn’t become one.
To that end, Schuler has introduced legislation that would ban transgendered women from competing against biological women in athletic events.
Schuler said she decided to introduce “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” because of her experience as an athlete before Title IX — the landmark civil rights law passed in 1972 that prohibits sex-based discrimination.
She said growing up at that time, that she wasn’t allowed to compete in many sports and she fears that unless legislation is passed to ban transgendered athletes from competing against biological women, that more than 50 years of progress in women’s sports could be taken away.
“As a female, I just don’t want to see those doors shut again for other girls and women in the future who may end up having less playing time, fewer opportunities to participate, and fewer opportunities for scholarships because we are allowing transgendered athletes to compete against females,” Schuler said.
The senator mentioned the case of a transgendered swimmer from Penn State who had competed three years as a man before competing as a transgendered swimmer in her fourth year.
“He was a very average swimmer,” she said of Lia Thomas. “Then she transitioned to a female and she’s breaking all of these NCAA records.”
At the Zippy Invitational at the University of Akron in December, Thomas dominated the 500-yard freestyle finals and set an Ivy League record in the process.
“How would that make you feel if you set a record five or six years ago and now there is a male competing as a female that is breaking all of your records?” Schuler said.
“It’s not right and it’s not fair. And it stirred a passion for me to fight and protect girls and women in keeping opportunities equal,” she said. “So that’s really the bottom line.”
Sara Burlingame, executive director of Wyoming Equality doesn’t see it that way. Burlingame told the Casper Star Tribune that “girls are girls”.
“All of the science, all of the Wyoming families telling their stories backs this up: transgender girls are girls. When we support them, they thrive. When we attempt to pass laws to hurt them and invalidate their experience, we are hurting vulnerable children,” Burlingame said.
The editor of Swimming World, one of the most read swimming magazines in the country, disagrees with that assessment.
In a column published in December, John Lohn said transgender women who compete against biological women have the same advantages as “doping” gives other athletes.
“The effects of being born a biological male, as they relate to the sport of swimming, offer Thomas a clear-cut edge over the biological females against whom she is competing,” Lohn wrote.
“She is stronger. It is that simple. And this strength is beneficial to her stroke, on turns and to her endurance. Doping has the same effect.”
Clay Travis, a national sports personality, said the “smashing success” of Lia Thomas threatens all women’s sports.
“Clearly when you’re winning races by 38 seconds over the person who is in second place and won a 500-meter by 15 seconds, the bigger issue here is it threatens to destroy all of women’s sports,” Travis said.
“This is not sexism, this is biology. Men are bigger, stronger and faster than women. That is why we separate men’s and women’s athletics,” he said.
Schuler said regardless of whether the legislation ends up getting passed or if the issue ends up in the courts, she said it is important to make the effort to try to keep the “playing field level.”
“The bill is necessary whether we have a handful of trans-athletes this year or whether we have dozens next year, to me it doesn’t matter,” Schuler said.
“If you take away the opportunity from one girl in our state and give it to a trans-athlete, it’s wrong and that’s the bottom line,” she said.