We have reached a point in the debate over House Bill 358, the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” that indicates reason and scientific rigor are not being considered in the solution. Political desperation and desire are elevated above all else. To everyone’s disappointment, opponents of the bill are scraping the bottom of the barrel for arguments—which is never a good look. Here are the main Hail Mary attempts by the opposition.
“Inclusion is fairness.” That is what transgender athlete and Professor of Philosophy Veronica Ivy told Michael Smerconish of CNN during a segment discussing legislation defining biological sex for the purpose of competing in sports. This is extraordinary, not because it is logically appealing, but because it is an attempt to redefine fairness to meet a political or personal end.
While inclusion and fairness are not mutually exclusive, they are not necessary conditions of each other. Take for instance the lawsuits against universities for making acceptance decisions based on inclusion rather than fairness. The University of Texas at Austin, UNC at Chapel Hill, Harvard, and Yale have been sued for engaging in discrimination based on race in its undergraduate admissions process. While the universities were not found to have violated Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, apart from UNC, as that lawsuit is still pending, arguments made by the plaintiffs and defendants demonstrated that the universities intentionally considered students’ skin color to determine college admission to satisfy diversity goals. This is a clear example of where inclusion does not equal fairness because one cannot control the color of their skin, and thus for that to be a factor against them is unfair. Thus, the premise that inclusion necessarily equates to fairness is invalid.
Getting the NCAA involved
Students, professional athletes, and activists are petitioning the NCAA to retaliate against states passing bills to define biological sex for the purpose of competing in sports. This would be a remarkable event if the NCAA were to act on these opinions rather than sound judgment. The NCAA ought to consider the full extent of the consequences of such action. For example, could continuing to allow trans athletes to compete with female-born athletes lead to an increase in the use of a performance-enhancing substance (PES)? Studies have shown PESs are commonly used by adolescents in attempts to improve athletic performance, albeit girls report much lower rates of using PESs.
Currently, using PESs is against the NCAA’s rules but will it be more lenient with punishments if a player cites the unfairness of playing against a trans athlete who proves to have a clear competitive advantage? What if it becomes evident to the NCAA and everybody else that trans athletes disproportionately outperform their competition? These questions and others ought to be rigorously examined by the NCAA before acting in such a politically charged manner. Thus, any action on behalf of the NCAA ought to be predicated on data, science, and fairness.
Invoking the risk of suicide
Rep. Rachel Hunt’s, D-Mecklenburg, offered a statement that stood out to me during the North Carolina House Committee debate regarding H. B. 358. Hunt quoted statistics from a national survey of LGBTQ youth, whereby she stated “40% of LGBTQ respondents seriously considered attempting suicide in the last 12 months, with more than half of transgender and non-binary youth seriously considering suicide.” Hunt’s concerns seem to suggest the bill could lead to the suicide of transgender individuals.
Suicide is a serious concern among youth, especially in the United States. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 years. Consequently, the risk of suicide is a universal concern among young people and not just trans youth.
Hunt’s concerns would carry significant weight if H. B. 358 were a ban on sporting participation for trans youth. However, it is not. Moreover, in a 2015 study conducted by the NCAA, the researchers noted that there is an elevated risk of suicide among athletes because of the increased pressure of competitive sports. Given the biological difference between male and female athletes, it is plausible to suggest that female athletes may experience an elevated risk of suicide from an increased pressure to compete with biological males. Hence, Hunt’s argument could result in higher suicide rates for biological female athletes for the sake of minimizing the suicide of transgender athletes. Therefore, Hunt must explain why the potential suicide for girls weighs less than the potential for trans athletes as suggested by her advancing concerns for one and not the other. (By no means am I suggesting Hunt cares more about one over the other; however, her argument implies that one is worth considering while the other may be less worthy of highlighting. And that would be a morally reprehensible omission.)
The Save Women’s Sports Act has merit when one digs deeper into the unintended consequences of social engineering for the sake of “fairness.”
Joshua Peters is a philosopher and social critic from Raleigh, NC. His academic background is in western philosophy, STEM, and financial analysis. Joshua studied at North Carolina State University (BS) and UNC Charlotte (MS). He is a graduate of the E.A. Morris Fellowship for Emerging Leaders.