Op eds

This op-ed by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) first appeared in the Shreveport Times on May 13, 2024. This piece also appeared in the Daily AdvertiserHouma TodayThe Daily CometThe Town TalkThe News-StarThe Weekly Citizen and Daily World.

Many players on the New Orleans Pelicans probably feel like a kid inside when they’re on the basketball court. They might even miss their days of dominating middle school basketball tournaments instead of squaring up against the giants in the NBA.

No one, however, would think it was fair if Zion Williamson joined a youth basketball league simply because he identified as a 12-year-old. No middle school boys could stop Williamson from getting to the basket, and they’d probably end up injured if they tried.

Men and women don’t compete for the same reasons. Yet transgender activists want athletic institutions to ignore these obvious physical differences so transgender athletes can feel included, even if it hurts biological girls in the process.

From middle school gyms to NCAA swimming pools, activists seek to force women and girls to compete against biological men and boys. These activists claim it is a “myth” that transgender athletes have an advantage, but most Americans know this is untrue and unfair.

Starting in the womb and continuing through puberty, men develop physical advantages that help them outperform women in competitive sports. On average, men are taller and have higher bone density than women. When controlled for height, women also have 15% smaller hearts and 12% smaller lungs than men.

These physical differences give men a significant advantage in athletics, especially at the elite levels. In several track and swimming events, the female world record holder wouldn’t qualify to compete in the men’s race. In weightlifting, men outperform women in the same weight class by as much as 30%.

Some activists claim that transgender athletes are different from typical men because they take cross-sex hormones. After two years of cross-sex hormone treatments, however, biological male athletes can still run 12% faster and pound out 10% more push-ups than women.

Allowing biological boys to compete as girls will harm women’s sports. Still, many activists believe their feelings and the feelings of transgender athletes are more important.

These activists allowed the 554th-ranked male swimmer, then known as William Thomas, to become the NCAA Division I national champion named Lia Thomas. Thomas’ participation in the pool eliminated the dreams of the biological women who worked for that title, and that wasn’t the worst of it. The locker room was.

According to a lawsuit filed by several women who competed against Thomas, no one warned them that they’d have to share a locker room. Instead, the tournament quietly and quickly redesignated the girls’ locker room as “unisex” without so much as hanging a new sign.

Athletic officials and other adult decision-makers ignored the privacy and dignity of young female athletes to help a biological male/transgender female feel included. They also put women and girls at risk of suffering much more severe injuries than they would typically face when playing against female opponents.

Biological women are more susceptible to injuries than biological men. Female soccer players, for example, are twice as likely to suffer concussions as male soccer players, in part because men have different neck-strength-to-head-size ratios that help them better absorb blows.

Several female athletes have suffered season-ending injuries against biological male competitors. In Massachusetts, for example, a girls’ basketball team forfeited a game because a transgender player on the opposing team injured so many of their players. In North Carolina, a volleyball player is suing her state after a transgender player dealt her a serious concussion.

Allowing biological men with gender dysphoria to compete against women jeopardizes women’s access to scholarships and other financial opportunities, too.

The NCAA limits how many scholarships each team can distribute. By definition, granting a scholarship to a biological man who is on the women’s team denies a biological woman of that scholarship. The University of Washington already has offered its first scholarship on a women’s team to a biological male. It likely won’t be the last opportunity taken from biological women.

Many fair-minded people reject the idea that women and girls who work hard to develop their athletic talents must sacrifice their opportunities, privacy and safety to promote gender activism. I’m one of them.

Louisiana is full of fair-minded people. We recognize that it’s common sense for boys and girls to compete in separate leagues. That’s why a bipartisan coalition in the Louisiana legislature passed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act to prevent biological boys from competing against biological girls in our elementary and high schools and from sharing their locker rooms.

Protecting women and girls in sports doesn’t need to be a partisan issue. Congress should follow Louisiana’s leadership and do more to protect girls, their sports, their scholarships, and their futures from a social experiment that is already proving to be unwise.