As former varsity athletes at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, we know
what it takes to compete.

We applaud efforts in the North Carolina legislature to support equal athletic opportunity by preserving single-sex competition for female athletes. In the world of competitive sport, single-sex categories are the only way to achieve equality for women and girls. And we implore lawmakers and Gov. Cooper to support legislation that will protect female athletes at the highest levels of competition, including college athletics, where the opportunities, the stakes, and the risks are greatest.

To some people, sports — and sex-segregated sports — may seem like a trivial matter.
During a time when our country and our states face myriad challenges related to the
economy, the environment, health care, crime and safety, and immigration, it may seem like
sports are just a matter of recreation, not carrying the same weight as some of these other issues.

But this was not our experience as female college athletes. Sports changed our lives.
Through participation in our sports at the elite level, we learned critical skills that have
translated into all areas of our lives: self-discipline, confidence, teamwork, leadership,
perseverance, resilience, and more. We formed bonds with our fellow women athletes
deeper than words can describe.

Of course, our participation in sports also offered us the opportunity to attend a premier
university on athletic scholarships, helped some of us on our way to even higher levels
of competition, and served all of us in terms of resume-building and professional networking.

It is critical that lawmakers and others understand all that is at stake in women’s sports.
The issue also serves as a proxy for how our culture and our laws will treat women in general: Will we recognize that women are deserving of fairness and equal opportunities in all areas of life? The position of lawmakers on the question of women’s sports sends a strong message here.

Biological-sex differences matter in sports. As tennis legend Martina Navratilova recently said, “We shouldn’t have to explain it.” The science is clear: males have larger hearts and lungs, different skeletal structures, and stronger muscles than females of the same size and weight. These differences allow males to throw farther, run and accelerate faster, punch harder, and jump higher than females.

Although the male athletic advantage arguably begins in the womb, male puberty confers a significant and lasting athletic advantage that cannot be fully erased — even with years of hormone therapy. Yes, testosterone suppression impairs male performance. But it cannot erase a biological male’s athletic advantage over females.

As female athletes, many of us sacrificed blood, sweat, and tears to shave mere fractions of a second off of our times. Being asked to compete against hormonally impaired males, who nevertheless still carry an athletic advantage, is grossly insulting and signals to young women that their bodies are not good enough.

But this is not just about fairness and female self-esteem. It’s also about equal opportunity. Because any time a biological male takes a roster spot on a women’s high school or college team, there is a female athlete who doesn’t make the team. Any time a biological male takes the field in a woman’s sport, a female athlete loses playing time. And any time a biological male receives a women’s athletic scholarship, a female athlete loses scholarship dollars.

There should, of course, be a place for trans-athletes in competitive sport. But that place is not in the women’s category, which must remain protected for the sake of equality.

By opening up women’s sports to men, the federal Department of Education and the
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have failed us. Their actions not only contradict science and common sense, but they also violate Title IX, the 1972 law that
prohibits sex discrimination in education, including college athletics.

While the NCAA is powerful, it does not represent the position of most Americans or most North Carolinians. Nationally, only three in 10 people say transgender athletes should
be allowed in women’s sports, and 21 states have already acted to protect women’s sports as female-only. North Carolina should become the 22nd, and college sports should be included.

North Carolina has an opportunity to defend collegiate women’s sports, putting pressure on the NCAA to correct course.

Women before us fought hard for the progress we enjoyed as women athletes; we must fight to keep women’s sports fair. But who will fight for us? N.C. lawmakers, we look to you.

Megan Kaltenbach Burke
Track and Cross-Country
2-time NCAA Champion
American Record Holder

Katelyn Conlon
Track and Cross-Country

Alli Van Schaack
NCAA Field Hockey Champion

Laura Cummings
Track and Cross-Country

Cassie Link
Track and Cross-Country

Carol Henry
Track, Canadian Record Holder
NCAA Bronze Medalist
10-Time All-American

Jesse Gey Duke
NCAA Field Hockey Champion
All American
USA Olympian

Erin Dudley Kagan

Erin Donohue
Track and Cross-Country
2008 USA Olympian, 1500m

Taylor Parkes Lane
Track and Cross-Country