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The Texas State Girls Wrestling Champion is a Boy

February 26, 2017

You can blame North Carolina – they started it.

On February 22, 2016, the Charlotte, North Carolina City Council passed an ordinance that expanded protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, and added new protections against discrimination based on gender identity. One provision of the ordinance specifically allowed students to use the bathroom that aligned with their gender identity instead of with their sex at birth. The ordinance was to become effective on April 1, 2016.

The North Carolina governor and legislature were not amused. The image they pandered to the public was of adult male sexual predators using the law to gain access to female restrooms in order to molest North Carolina’s girls. The notion has its comic aspect, since it logically depends on the premise that child molesters wouldn’t dare enter girls’ bathrooms without the cover of the Charlotte ordinance. Child molesters don’t care so much about felony rape laws, but they are apparently quite persnickety about the legality of their access to bathrooms.

Then-Governor Pat McCrory (since unseated by now-Governor Roy Cooper) got the North Carolina legislature to enact a bill called H.B. 2, mandating that the use of single-sex bathrooms in public buildings be determined by the sex recorded on a person’s birth certificate.

The law went considerably farther than that, for instance prohibiting North Carolina cities from taking measures to protect lesbian, gay and transgender people that exceeded North Carolina’s state laws on the subject. Since North Carolina law allows discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, H.B. 2 effectively repealed existing local protections and barred future protections as well. (For those interested in the reasons that H.B. 2 is unconstitutional, I refer you to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1996 decision in Romer v. Evans. A state may not target one segment of its population by depriving them of the opportunity to lobby for, and win, municipal legislative protections.)

H.B. 2 was introduced, passed by both Republican-dominated houses of the state legislature, and signed by Republican Governor Pat McCrory, on a single day – March 23, 2016. Reaction was fast, and furious. Rock stars like Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr canceled concerts in North Carolina. Corporations canceled conventions in North Carolina. The National Basketball Association pulled its 2017 all-star game from the state. Apple, IBM, American Airlines, PayPal, Dow Chemical, Google, Bayer, and a host of other corporations strongly opposed H.B. 2. Five states and 37 municipalities banned non-essential travel to North Carolina on governmental business. (And really, when would travel to North Carolina ever be “essential” for governmental business?)

All told, reaction to H.B. 2 cost North Carolina thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars, contributing to McCrory’s narrow electoral loss last November.

*          *          *

Growing up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas, young Mackenzie Beggs felt that she wasn’t really a girl. She told her friends to call her Mack, and she told her grandmother she was going to be a man when she grew up.

At 15 years old, Mack Beggs began the transition to male, which included taking testosterone supplements. Mack “fell in love” with the sport of wrestling, and tried to join his high school’s boys wrestling team. But the Texas regulatory body in charge, the University Interscholastic League, ruled that he had to join the girls team, since his birth certificate said he was a girl.

Mack is now 17 years old. Without detracting in any way from the discipline and rigor of Mack’s athletic training, there can’t be any doubt that his testosterone supplements gave him an edge against the girls he was forced to compete with. This week in Houston, Mack won the girls state-wide high school wrestling championship in his 110-pound weight class.

Many cheered Mack on, but some were remarkably bitter toward Mack personally. One wrestler’s mother was quoted in the Washington Post: “She’s standing there holding her head high like she’s the winner. She’s not winning. She’s cheating.” A local lawyer went to court to try to get Mack suspended from the competition – which, the lawyer acknowledged, was not the competition Mack had wanted to enter in the first place.

The lawyer naturally argued that Mack’s testosterone supplements gave him an impermissible advantage over his competitors. Testosterone use by Texas scholastic wrestlers is barred except for medical reasons. The lawyer argued that since the American Psychiatric Association had eliminated “gender identity disorder” from its catalog of mental disorders, Mack’s use of testosterone was not medical. The lawyer, who insists on referring to Mack as “she,” conveniently overlooked the fact that the APA replaced gender identity disorder with “gender dysphoria.”

The APA explicitly regards gender dysphoria as a mental disorder; one of the treatments is gender reassignment. Gender reassignment is what Mack Beggs is doing, and testosterone supplements are part of it. He tried to join the boys wrestling team, according to his gender identity, but was given a choice between wrestling girls or not wrestling at all.

I think we can start from the premise that you don’t get to have things both ways. If the rule is that all people forever belong to the sex recorded on their birth certificates, then it seems to me that the rule has to apply equally to bathroom use and high school wrestling team membership. If you’re uncomfortable with transgender females getting a gander at the girls in the female bathrooms, then you have to get comfortable with transgender males mashing their sweaty bodies against the bodies of female wrestlers. Conversely, if you’re not too keen on the body-mashing, then you need to get comfy with the bathroom gandering.

*          *          *

It has been widely reported that President Donald Trump revoked protections for transgender students adopted by former President Barack Obama. The New York Times, for instance, ran this headline: “Trump Rescinds Rules on Bathrooms for Transgender Students.” This reporting is incorrect.

The document that Trump rescinded was what is called a “dear colleague letter.” It was sent on May 13, 2016, jointly by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education, to advise state and local education officials around the country of the Obama administration’s interpretation of federal law – specifically how federal law applies to transgender students. The letter stated the administration’s opinion that Title IX of the 1964 Civil Rights Act requires that sex-specific educational facilities and services be open to students according to gender identity. The Trump administration says otherwise.

Neither the Obama administration nor the Trump administration is the arbiter of the scope and meaning of federal legislation; that role is reserved to the courts. Neither the Obama administration letter nor the Trump administration’s superseding letter determines anyone’s legal rights.

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits sex discrimination in employment. Title IX prohibits it in education. To me, the question is a relatively simple one: is sex an immutable characteristic that is fixed at birth, or is it possible for a person to change sexes? If it is possible to change sexes, then it seems inarguable to me that people are entitled to be treated according to their current sex.

Those who oppose transgender rights tend to assume that it is not possible to change sexes. So, for instance, the following statement is made in transgender rights litigation: “when Title IX was signed into law, neither Congress nor agency regulators and third parties believed that the law opened all bathrooms and other intimate facilities to members of both sexes.” In other words, transgender females are not really female, and transgender males are not really male; freeing them from the gender they were assigned at birth constitutes “opening all bathrooms and other intimate facilities to members of both sexes.”

Every single one of Mack Beggs’s female opponents this season, all 56 of them, lost to him – and the matches generally weren’t even close. The Post said Mack “cruised” to the state championship. In the championship tournament, he won by scores like 18-7 and 12-4. He won the championship bout by 12-2: he beat the best female high school wrestler in his weight class in the entire State of Texas by ten points. For the uninitiated, the scores of scholastic wrestling matches tend to look like the scores of baseball games: a ten-point win is a thumping big victory. I suppose we can ask Mack’s wrestling opponents whether Mack is really and truly still a girl.

I do have to note one irony: the irony of opponents of transgender rights pinning their case to the intentions of the authors of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Civil Rights Act as written and introduced into Congress did not cover sex discrimination. Southern Congressmen who opposed a federal prohibition against race discrimination amended the bill to add the prohibition against sex discrimination, expecting that the amendment would make the bill ridiculous, so the whole bill would be defeated. And in fact, the Congressional Record tells us that introduction of the amendment prompted laughter on the floor of the House of Representatives.

The authors of the sex discrimination provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act did not intend to prohibit sex discrimination at all. Looking to them to determine whether they intended the “sex” in “sex discrimination” to be determined by birth or by gender identity is disingenuous; it is absurd – and therefore, I must say, it is so fitting of the times in which we now live.



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