I’m writing in response to a letter published in the Connecticut Examiner on Tuesday, March 30, that attempts to lay out an argument against the Equality Act. To put it mildly, the letter was ignorant. To put it truthfully, the letter was transphobic and abusive.
The author attempts to frame his argument as essential in order to protect young girls, mothers, and the homeless, but instead shines a light on an abusive narrative that is attacking children across not only Connecticut, but everywhere in the U.S.
The issue, to the author at least, is about transgender girls and women infiltrating women’s spaces. But the real issue at hand is endangering the safety of not only transgender girls in sports, but trans people everywhere, which is what this exact narrative is meant to do.
This is all to say that this is not an issue of transgender children participating in sports. This is an issue of policing women’s bodies, controlling women’s spaces, terrorizing marginalized communities, and literally putting lives at risk. The narrative that Dominic Rapini pushes – that men disguised as transgender women are going to invade women’s bathrooms, shelters, or locker rooms to harm women and girls – literally puts transgender children in danger by reinforcing the false belief that they are dangerous.
Many people who have similar views to Mr. Rapini disguise this harmful narrative as a way to support – or even save – women’s sports. I am a cisgender woman who works in the sports industry, and real advocates for women and girls in sports do not support banning any children, regardless of gender identity, from playing sports. Considering the author did not even bother to get Selina Soule’s name right before making her the centerpiece of his argument, I don’t believe he actually cares about the inequities in women’s sports. Plenty has been written about Soule’s lawsuit, in which she claimed that losing a race to a transgender girl robbed her of an opportunity to prove that she could run in college. Soule is still running track in college, while the defendants of her lawsuit are not.
Cheryl Reeve, the head coach of the Minnesota Lynx, wrote an op-ed for Sports Illustrated yesterday on International Trans Day of Visibility, and had this to say about the issue:
“When we welcome all woman athletes, including transgender woman athletes, to bring their full authentic selves to the game, we are stronger as individual players and as a team. I have dedicated my life to women’s basketball long enough to know that the true threats to women’s sports lie in obstacles like severe pay disparities, lack of investment in women coaches and an overall lack of resources dedicated to women’s sports from scholastic competition through to the elite level. Transgender exclusion pits woman athletes against one another, reinforces the harmful notion that there is only one right way to be a woman and distracts us from the real threats to women’s sports.”
If Mr. Rapini truly cares about women’s sports and Title IX, as he implies, I wonder what he is doing to support them aside from spreading fear and hate about transgender girls. Does he teach young men not to harass women, in person or online? Does he teach them not to degrade women based on their appearance? Does he refute the false narrative that nobody watches women’s sports? Did he watch the Connecticut Whale play in the NWHL Isobel Cup playoffs last week? (The first time professional women’s hockey was broadcast on national television). Did he join 1.7 million people in watching the UConn Huskies beat Baylor in the Elite Eight? Did he follow the Connecticut Sun as they made the WNBA Finals in 2019 and then came 10 minutes away from a second straight appearance in 2020? Does he support girl’s sports in any tangible way?
Even worse than the feigned defense of girls in sports, the author promotes a false narrative that transgender women want to use women’s bathrooms or women’s shelters so they can prey on women and girls. In fact, they just want to use the bathroom like everyone else, or to find shelter from abuse that is disproportionately directed at trangender people.
The author tells us to “read the incredible story from Anchorage, Alaska,” if we don’t believe him, but doesn’t mention what happened there or how it is supposed to support his position. Based on the author’s statement that “biological males” would erase any peace of mind of women and girls in shelters, a reader could draw the conclusion that a transgender woman did something heinous at a shelter in Anchorage.
In fact, the only “incredible story” I found was about a transgender women who was turned away from a faith-based Anchorage women’s shelter in 2018. After the city tried to enforce a local ordinance prohibiting discrimination in public accomodations based on gender identity, the shelter sued. Anchorage ended up settling that lawsuit, with city officials saying the court indicated they would lose the suit.
Because of the beliefs the author promotes, transgender women often don’t find “peace of mind” in any space. In 2020, at least 37 transgender and gender non-conforming people were murdered in the U.S., and the actual number is likely higher because transgendered people are often misgendered after their deaths. Spreading unfounded fear that allowing transgender women to use the women’s restroom does nothing to protect women and girls from real threats of abuse, and it certainly does nothing to protect transgender women and girls – nearly half of whom will experience sexual violence in their lives.
Transgender lives are not up for debate, and someone’s gender identity should not preclude them from any of the rights that everyone in this country should have.
This issue of whether transgender women and girls should be allowed to participate in sports has grabbed state legislatures across the country. Starting under the guise of “protecting” women’s sports, these efforts have spiraled into policies that are putting transgender youth at risk.
Arkansas recently passed a bill to prohibit doctors from providing gender-affirming medical care to transgender and nonbinary youth, and Texas now wants to follow suit. They are denying health care to children because of the ideological belief that transgender lives are not valid.
If you don’t know much about the harm these narratives and legislation are doing to a marginalized population that’s already vulnerable, I plead you to educate yourself. Follow the reporting that’s happening around these anti-transgender lawsuits, read material written by transgender writers, read articles that includes transgender sources who are literally dealing with these repercussions everyday of their lives.
Here are some helpful links that provide more insight into how this issue is actually affecting transgender youth:
- Journalist Sam Levin interviewed kids across the U.S. about the Republican bills targeting their rights for The Guardian. Many have faced these attacks for years and are now seeing the bills become law
- For The Nation, Chase Strangio and Raquel Willis pen a powerful essay about how visibility alone will not keep transgender youth safe
- For The New Republic, Melissa Gira Grant wrote about The Republican Disinformation Campaign Behind Arkansas’s vile anti-trans law
- Reporter Katelyn Burns explains how conservative politicians came to care so much about women’s sports on Vox’s podcast, “Today, Explained,” and you can read her explainer article on Vox
- Freelance sports writer Britni de la Cretaz spoke to transgender boys in sports — a group that’s often overlooked in this argument — for Inside Hook: What About the Trans Athletes Who Compete — And Win — in Men’s Sports?
- By Britni de la Cretaz for Glamour: Attacks on Transgender Athletes Are Threatening Women’s Sports
- From US Women’s National Soccer Team star Megan Rapinoe: Real threats to women’s sports are lack of resources, sexual harassment, not transgender athletes
For other places to donate:
Some other reads (courtesy of @soyouwanttotalkabout on Instagram)
- Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revoluion by Susan Stryker
- Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
- Tomorrow Will Be Different by Sarah McBride
- Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon
- Transhood (HBO)
- The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (Netflix)
- The Trans List (HBO Now)
- Disclosure (Netflix)
For a full tracker of states with anti-trans bills and the status, please visit the National Center for Transgender Equality.