I ran cross country with heart. I never dogged a workout, and I pushed to the end every meet, not infrequently staggering or passing out as soon as I crossed the finish line. One muddy race, I lost a shoe a half mile from the end and still eked out second place.
Second place was my wheelhouse. I never won a major competition. Most days, I wasn’t even the best on my team. Nevertheless, I scored well for my team every single race, and we made it to States during my high school senior year. I was far more proud of that than of the academic record for which I was much better known. I worked hard at my sport, and though I barely cracked the top 50 in my state, I think that I managed to be the best runner that I could be.
In my midfifties now, I know that I will probably never race again. Part of is is purely physical—the pounding of pavement extracts a price, and I ran for decades. I find it harder to run at all, let alone push myself for the speed that I once enjoyed. Beyond that, however, I am restrained by the realization that should I run competitively, the next price I paid might be far worse than the aches and pains.
America celebrated Pride 2022 by writing, copying and pasting bills to degrade and demonize transgender people. 35 states proposed anti-trans legislation in the first half of the year. Having failed for the most part a few years back to codify where trans folk can use the bathroom, Republicans are doubling down, finding in anti-trans issues more gasoline to pour on the fires of the culture war.
Their favorite flavor this year is the prohibition of transgender participation in athletics. The gambit is not new, but this year they have found willing accomplices in athletic associations, well-amplified pundits and even among LGBT notables. The formula, “I am (insert queer identity) here, and I don’t think transgender women should…” flows directly and profusely to op-ed pages and online news outlets.
Nobody medically transitions to win a medal, and nobody emerges through medical transition unchanged. And, despite assertions to the contrary, no spate of domination of athletics at any level by transgender women can be demonstrated. One person’s good performance does not a pattern make. Sometimes a good athlete transitions and continues to be a good athlete. Most of the time, I suspect, they do not. When they do, I would think it something to celebrate.
I personally began the process in relatively good shape, knocking out 8 minute mile splits for an hour or more at a time on the treadmill. Within 6 months, those splits had lengthened to about 11 minutes. Would I be exactly as good a runner in my new demographic as in my old? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t really matter, or at least that it shouldn’t.
“It’s about fairness”, goes the swindle. Incumbent in this notion is the idea that one person can deserve to win an event more than someone else, piled on top of the idea—so strenuously denied—that whether one wins or loses really does matter more than how one plays the game. Anyone who has ever waited for the gun on the starting line of a 10k knows that almost everyone participating will not win, but, I still dare to hope, that it is worth running anyway.