Another Side of the Story: Trans Athletes

A few weeks ago, there was a flutter of impassioned energy condemning trans athletes who attempted to play in [women’s] sports. Most of the conversation spoke to trans athletes having an advantage which is unfair to biological women who compete.

I read it quickly.  I don’t have any skin in the game, nor do I follow women’s sports, so the unfairness angle seemed quite logical to me.

I didn’t think too much about it until I read a NYT opinion piece by Lindsay Crouse this morning.  Yes, I suspect those who passionately argue that allowing trans athletes to compete with biological women may poo-poo a NYT article, but I must say that Ms. Crouse offered a side of the story that I had not considered.

In a nutshell, her point was that we may be better served by supporting women’s sports in the same way that we support men’s sports – financially.  She argues that the politicians who have elevated this ban of trans women to protect women’s sports are using that as an excuse for their own transphobia. She quotes former SC governor Nikki Haley as saying that the game “is rigged against women.”  Ms. Crouse’s comeback:  “the game has always been in favor of men.”

Yet we treat the symptom and miss diagnosing and addressing the root cause.  When the media gets wind of a poorly equipped women’s weight room compared to the men’s next door, glorious new weights appear.  When media is called out for too little coverage of women’s sports in favor of men’s, a splashy set of photos appears to calm the masses. Yet the inequality persists.

But this stood out to me, as I read.  “The dialogue around trans women’s participation in sports implies that they are invading women’s sports for a competitive advantage. Competing for what?  Crumbs.”

That sentence took the logic out of the unfairness argument for me. It changed the paradigm and made me realize that there may be another side of the story.

My purpose in writing this is not to defend either position.  I don’t know enough facts to even participate in an argument.  It is simply to say that perhaps what looks so very logical at first glance (because it fits our own paradigm) may have another side to the story.

If we ever want to heal our country, move past partisan rigidity, and have real conversations, we can’t keep using social media as an opportunity to push an agenda.

But maybe we don’t really want to heal our country or move past partisan rigidity.


Carol Anderson
Carol Anderson
CAROL is the founder and Principal of Anderson Performance Partners, LLC, a business consultancy focused on bringing together organizational leaders to unite all aspects of the business – CEO, CFO, HR – to build, implement and evaluate a workforce alignment strategy. With over 35 years of executive leadership, she brings a unique lens and proven methodologies to help CEOs demand performance from HR and to develop the capability of HR to deliver business results by aligning the workforce to the strategy. She is the author of Leading an HR Transformation, published by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2018, which provides a practical RoadMap for human resource professionals to lead the process of aligning the workforce to the business strategy, and deliver results, and writes regularly for several business publications.

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  1. Hi, Carol, and thanks. Crumbs indeed!

    As JFK suggested, and, wow, does this apply to asocial media : “Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

    There is an atavistic urge to define ourselves in terms of our enemy, as if without another slice of humankind to belittle, we lose standing. I must have been shortchanged, I guess. Age, gender, race, are differences I notice. I also notice sense of humor, acceptance, voice, clothes, glasses, eye color . . . . but something never clicks into my heart which is that those differences are anything other than interesting resources.

    I was talking with Colin Smith the other day (he and I are working on a project about listening and talking, btw, which will be part of the June Synopsis 360). We have these wonderful build-on-what-you-just-said verbal ping-pong tournaments, and we both came to the same conclusion, a useful bromide, I suppose: Curiosity is the vaccination against resentment.

    Finally – – – > “I would like us to do something unprecedented,” James Baldwin wrote in 1967, “to create ourselves without finding it necessary to create an enemy.”
    A snack for thought.

    Have no less fun.

    • Thanks for these thoughts and comment. We do seem to be finding enemies that we can ridicule and hate.

      Have you read the book by Ian Leslie Curious: The desire to know and why your future depends on it?