Collective frustration

Today in the NY Times:

The women on the Princeton University swim team spoke of collective frustration edging into anger. They had watched Lia Thomas, a transgender woman who swam for the University of Pennsylvania, win meet after meet, beating Olympians and breaking records.

So we’re going to talk about this now? In the Times? At long last?

The team met with the executive director of the Ivy League athletic conference, Robin Harris. They enumerated the physical advantages males have. Harris said she wasn’t going to change the rules in the middle of the season.

The battle over whether to let female transgender athletes compete in women’s elite sports has reached an angry pitch, a collision of competing principles: The hard-fought-for right of women to compete in high school, college and pro sports versus a swelling movement to allow transgender athletes to compete in their chosen gender identities.

It’s all about the swelling, isn’t it.

Sebastian Coe, the Olympic champion runner and head of the International Association of Athletics Federations, which governs world track, speaks of biological difference as inescapable. “Gender,” he said recently, “cannot trump biology.”

The American Civil Liberties Union offers a counterpoint. “It’s not a women’s sport if it doesn’t include ALL women athletes,” the group tweeted. “Lia Thomas belongs on the Penn swimming and diving team.”

The ACLU doesn’t “offer a counterpoint,” it insults us with lies. ALL women athletes are women athletes; Lia Thomas is a man. He – obviously – does not belong on any women’s team.

Ms. Thomas herself has chosen silence. In March, after winning the 500-yard freestyle in the N.C.A.A. women’s championship in Atlanta, she skipped a news conference. She has of late spoken only to Sports Illustrated, saying, “I’m not a man. I’m a woman, so I belong on the women’s team.”

It’s a harmful mistake to refer to Thomas as Ms. Thomas and she. It’s doubly true in his case, because it’s not just that trans women are men, it’s also that it seems very unlikely that Thomas is even a trans woman. It seems much more likely that he’s just cheating, without any illusions about himself.

Even nomenclature is contentious.

Well of course it is – nomenclature is all there is. It’s the most purely linguistic form of “activism” ever seen.

Descriptive phrases such as “biological woman” and “biological man” might be seen as central to discussing differences in performance. Many trans rights activists say such expressions are transphobic and insist biology and gender identity are largely social constructs.

Gender identity is of course social, and stupid besides. Biology, no.

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