To many people, Caitlyn Jenner is merely a pop culture icon.
But there are two things she understands very well:
1. Living as a transgender female.
2. And thriving in athletic competition.
Before her shocking transformation, she was the world's most dominant athlete -- as Bruce Jenner, who graced the cover of everything from Wheaties' boxes to Playgirl magazine in the late-70s and beyond. After finishing 10th in the 1972 Summer Olympics in the Decathlon event, Jenner cruised to victory in the 1975 Pam-American Games and the 1976 Summer Olympics.
Flash forward to 2015: Jenner comes out as a transgender woman and undergoes a very public transformation.
This week, Jenner announced she is running for Governor of California as a Republican. In the week since commencing her candidacy, she has ticked off the LGBTQ community with her stance that trans females should not be permitted to compete against biological females in sports.
"This is a question of fairness. That's why I oppose biological boys who are trans competing in girls' sports in school," said Jenner. "It just isn't fair. And we have to protect girls' sports in our schools."
It's certainly odd to think the most famous of the American LGBTQ community is in the same basket with Somerset's State Sen. Rick Girdler, who co-sponsored Senate Bill 106 during the 2021 General Assembly. But here we are.
SB 106 would require that schools involved in interscholastic athletics designate sports as girls', boys', or coed and maintain eligibility standards based on "biological sex."
The measure, dubbed the "Save Women's Sports Act," focuses specifically on girls' and women's programs with the stated goal of preventing anyone "of the male sex" from competing in those programs.
The bill stalled in committee during this session -- but I'll personally be shocked if it isn't revived in 2022.
Kentucky isn't the only state to introduce this type of bill -- as a matter of fact, several states have already passed similar legislation.
"If we choose to do nothing, we will by default be allowing those opportunities of our women to be lost or greatly reduced as society attempts to remove any reference to biological sex and replaces it with a social construct of self-identification," said North Dakota State Rep. Ben Koppelman, as he introduced a similar bill in his state. "We will in essence be allowing the panels in the glass ceiling to be reconstructed and reinstalled over the heads of women in the name of feelings rather than science."
Mark Brody, a North Carolina Republican, echoed Koppelman's sentiments.
"I do not want to wait until biological females are pushed out of female sports, and all of their records are broken, scholarships lost and benefits of excelling are diminishing before this is addressed," Brody said.
Supporters of this type of legislation say it would ensure fairness and preserve progress for girls' sports made with Title IX, a 1972 federal law that protects people from sex-based discrimination in school programs and activities that receive federal money. Of course, in 1972, "sex" was based on biology. Now it's evolved into something that looks very different.
But even so, last year, the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights ruled a Connecticut policy that allows transgender athletes to compete in girls' sports violates the civil rights of female athletes. The policy was tested after two transgender females began dominating their events in Connecticut high school track and field in 2017.
LGBTQ support groups will argue this dilemma isn't about biology. But any way you look at it, the science is clear.
Joanna Harper, a medical physicist and transgender runner from Portland, Oregon, believes there needs to be a standard based on hormone levels.
"Until hormone therapies begin to work, genetic males have a distinct advantage over genetic females," she said. "Most transgender teens don't begin hormone therapy until after puberty. Younger teens can be on puberty-blocking drugs, but puberty is very individualized and testosterone levels can vary greatly from one transgender girl to another.
"The gender identity doesn't matter, it's the testosterone levels," added Harper, who studies transgender athletes. "Trans girls should have the right to compete in sports. But cisgender (biological) girls should have the right to compete and succeed, too. How do you balance that? That's the question."
Certainly the needs of transgender children should be met. But I have to agree with Caitlyn Jenner on this one.
Should the needs of transgender females overshadow the needs of biological females? Biological females have the right to compete on a level playing field and have the opportunity to succeed. That was the intent of Title IX in the first place.
How can biological female athletes get a fair shake if they're competing against biological males?
JEFF NEAL is the Editor of the Commonwealth Journal. Reach him at email@example.com.