A few weeks ago, an article detailed how a Christian preK-12 school in Vermont withdrew its girls’ basketball team from a playoff game because of a transgender athlete playing on the opposing team. Regarding grounds for withdrawal, the school said that the transgender athlete “jeopardizes the fairness of the game and the safety of our players.” In response, the governing body for Vermont school sports and activities banned the school from participating in future tournaments. This ban includes all sports, not just basketball.
Only a few days later, another article related how a Massachusetts high school won a state championship in girls’ indoor track and field with the assistance of a transgender athlete. The athlete, Chloe Barns, picked up five points in the girls 55m hurdles, finishing fourth overall in the race. While this may not seem like an outstanding accomplishment, controversy sparked over Barns pushing other girls out of the finals as well as the fact that the boys’ high hurdles are taller and more difficult to clear than the girls’. In response, the policy from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education stated that “[a]ll students must be allowed to participate in a manner consistent with their gender identity.”
The ongoing controversy regarding the University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas – who smashed a national title in women’s swimming last March – hardly bears mentioning in addition to these stories. The issue of transgender athletes is becoming more and more prevalent across the board in all types of sports and levels of competition.
As a Christian and a female collegiate athlete myself, I feel I no longer have the option to remain passive as I watch the destruction of Title IX and the slow deterioration of women’s sports as a whole.
It is no secret that, when it comes to college sports, men bring in the bulk of the money. In 2021, the NCAA made more than $1.14 billion, 87% of which came from March Madness. NCAA women’s basketball brought in $266,183 while the men brought in a staggering $933 million. Part of the reason Title IX was created was to protect women’s sports from these statistics and to give women a way to play sports in light of the fact that they simply will not be as popular as men. Thanks to Title IX, in 2021 the NCAA distributed around $1 billion in scholarships to female basketball players across divisions 1 and 2, which is equal to what male basketball players received.
What will become of women’s sports if they develop into being dominated by men who identify – as the Massachusetts Department puts it – as female athletes? What will Title IX be accomplishing if the equal portion of money set aside for the women begins to flow back to the men?
Setting money and popularity aside, shifting to a purely scientific perspective highlights a few obvious reasons for separating male and female athletes. For starters, male and female body structures were designed differently, and no amount of transitional surgeries or hormonal suppressants will change the human skeletal structure. Men and women also differ substantially in fat-to-muscle ratio, and the placement of such differs because of our intended biological functions.
Of course, it is not the case that every male will be better than every female on the playing field or in the pool. As evidenced by the Massachusetts controversy, Barns was still beaten by three females. But as one ascends into the elite levels of athletic competition, it is increasingly difficult to find a female with superior abilities to a male. Additionally, due to differences in skeletal and muscular structures between the sexes, there are sometimes distinct regulations for male and female sports such as higher hurdles, a smaller basketball, or a closer three-point line. These regulations cannot be ignored when it comes to elite competition.
Ultimately, the differences in males and females point back to a Creator who intentionally made man and woman as different but equal bearers of His image. Not only did God create men and women to have different frames, strengths, and weaknesses, but His entire process of creating each was distinct. Genesis 2:7 reads, “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and then man became a living creature.” The creation account continues in verse 21-22, showing the creation of Eve: “So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.” Though the Lord made man and woman for distinct things and in a distinct manner, the Lord clearly made both male and female bodies with care and creativity, and He designed them with the ability to do.
I believe that sports are a wonderful way to both enjoy and glorify God with our bodies. Athletics are a way of pursing physical excellence, working hard, and celebrating the gifts God has blessed us with. Athletics also acknowledge the differences and abilities that God has given to each body, which are disrespected when the lines distinguishing gender are crossed. Though the Bible is clear on maintaining a distinction between men and women, it is not quite so clear on how to faithfully respond to the issue of transgender athletes. Still, God’s Word gives us principles to put into practice for this matter as for all matters.
First and foremost, we must approach every person we compete against with love, respecting them as a human being made in the image of God. Love does not necessarily look like support, but it does necessitate a refusal to view someone as inferior. Every athlete – especially Christian athletes – should bear a constant posture of humility regarding their performance and that of their competitors.
But there is also something to be said for standing up for the truth. We must adhere to the truth that it is unjust to ask women to compete with or against biological males. This does not love women, protect them, or celebrate their abilities, contra- the claims of many “women’s rights” activists during this past “Women’s History” Month. The issue extends to more than just fairness: these situations can easily become physically unsafe.
I admire the Vermont school’s desire to protect the safety and fairness of their female athletes. It came at a steep cost, but some things simply cannot be compromised on. We cannot be afraid to stand up for what is right, no matter the personal cost to ourselves. Due to the days we are in, we need to be prepared to face situations such as what the Vermont school encountered – even at a school like Grove City, for we compete against a variety of schools, Christian and non-Christian alike. Ultimately, we must turn to the Lord in contemplating these things and pray that he would give us wisdom and love, as well as redeem and restore our land.