Grassroots Toolkit: The Debate About Transgender Participation in Women’s Sports

Are you confused about the outrage over transgender participation in sports? Or don’t even know where to begin the discussion? This toolkit acts as a guide, so you can be well-informed to advocate for your position regarding this important issue. 

Scientific definitions of some of the keywords in this debate

The Department of Health and Human Services defines gender identity as “one’s internal sense of self as man, woman, both or neither.” Transgender is defined as “a person whose gender identity and/or expression is different from their sex assigned at birth, and societal and cultural expectations around sex.” Non-binary is defined as “a person who does not identify with the man or woman gender binary.” 

Sex is defined as biological differences between females and males, including chromosomes, sex organs, and endogenous hormonal profiles. The American College of Pediatricians states that

Sex is a dimorphic, innate trait defined in relation to an organism’s biological role in reproduction. In humans, primary sex determination occurs at fertilization and is directed by a complement of sex-determining genes on the X and Y chromosomes. This genetic signature is present in every nucleated somatic cell and is not altered by drugs or surgical interventions.

Hormone therapy or suppressants are defined as a medical treatment that relies on prescribing hormones of the opposite sex to a transitioning patient. This involves “testosterone hormones for those who were assigned female at birth” and “estrogen hormones for those who were assigned male at birth,” as well as suppressing the output of the hormone your body is producing that aligns with your biological sex.

Gender-affirming care is “medical, surgical, mental health, and non-medical services for transgender and nonbinary people,” which “treats individuals holistically, aligning their outward, physical traits with their gender identity.” 

Testosterone is the primary male hormone responsible for regulating sex differentiation, producing male sex characteristics, spermatogenesis, and fertility. “Testosterone is also involved in regulating secondary male characteristics, which are those responsible for masculinity. These secondary sex characteristics include male hair patterns, vocal changes, voice deepening, and anabolic effects, which include growth spurts in puberty...and skeletal muscle growth.”

What are the average testosterone levels for males and females?

Average Male Testosterone Levels: “10 to 35 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L)”

Average Female Testosterone Levels: “0.5 to 2.4 nmol/L”      

Estrogen is a steroid hormone associated with the female reproductive organs and is responsible for developing female sexual characteristics.

What is the debate about transgender participation in sports?

Whether it is the size of the basketball, the space between hurdles, or the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate, variations between men’s and women’s versions of the same sport reflect sex differences and foster fair competition among members of the same biological sex. To get a sense of how profound an advantage men derive from an androgenized body, consider that in 2017 alone, the best result recorded in the 100-meter sprint by a biological female (10.71 seconds) was beaten by male athletes more than 10,000 times (including by at least 124 boys under the age of 18).

But not all Americans feel that biological sex matters in sports. A small subset of individuals has taken a different approach, and the results have been damaging to biological women in sports. 

  • In 2014, a 51-yr old transwoman, Gabrielle Ludwig, decided to go to community college and play basketball on the women’s team. Despite the age, the 6ft-6 athlete averaged one of the highest minutes played per game each season, along with 14.2 rebounds per game and a total of 12 career blocks.
  • When CeCé Telfer, a transwoman, ran track as a man in 2016 and 2017, he was ranked 200th and 390th in the 400M hurdle. After transitioning, Telfer went on to win the Division II Championship in 2019 as a woman. Important to note that the men’s hurdle was set at 36 inches in this race compared to 30 inches for women.
  • In the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I swimming, transwoman Lia Thomas went from being ranked 554th and 65th in the men’s 200yds and 500yd freestyle, respectively, to 5th and 1st in the women’s. Plus, in the 500 freestyle, Thomas’s personal best as a woman decreased only 6% from her time in the men’s race, “as opposed to the typical 10% to 11% difference generally seen” between the performance of biological male and female athletes.

Transgender athletes competing in categories that do not represent their biological ability not only undermines fairness in competition; it also threatens the safety of the athletes around them.

  • In an MMA fight in 2014, Fallon Fox (a transwoman) fractured Tamikka Brent’s, her biological female opponent, “orbital bone inside her skull.”
  • World Rugby’s working group concluded that females being tackled by a person who went through male puberty posed “‘at least a 20–30% greater risk’ of injury.”
  • Confirming the World Rugby’s concerns, in April 2022, a transgender female high school rugby player injured three other girls in one game. The Coach stated, “Body size, body strength, and the ability to apply force with that size and strength completely dominate any girl that I have on my team.”
  • In North Carolina, a transgender high school volleyball player spiked the volleyball so fast that it left the opposing female with “trauma to the head and neck” and “long-term concussion symptoms, including problems with her vision.” The spike was estimated to have hit the high school girl at about 70 mph.

Better understanding of the biological differences between men and women and their effect on sports

If the amount of testosterone produced by an individual was the only biologically competitive difference between males and females, then suppressants could have an equalizing effect. 

However, the science outlines several significant sex differences that make men and women unique and deserving of their own sports categories:

  • One study found that after 3 years of hormone therapy, lean body mass, muscular strength, and muscular area, despite a decrease, were still greater in trans-women than in biological women.
  • survey noted that men are not only taller than women but have a “longer wingspan” and “significantly higher [wingspan-body length] ratio.” Males had a ratio of 1.023 while females had a ratio of 1.001.”
    • This ratio matters in many sports, especially swimming. USA National Team Coach Jonty Skinner’s research concluded, “Swimmers with a high anthropometry score—that is, their arms are relatively long in relation to their height—tend to do best in the long-axis strokes of freestyle and backstroke.” (Lia Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle.)
  • Another study found that men are not only naturally stronger than women but that this strength may be due to larger muscle fibers, meaning biological men and women are inherently different, regardless of testosterone levels.
  • Known as the gender gap, in sports, it is well acknowledged that men and women differ in physical performance, with men performing faster and stronger. “The mean gap is 10.7% for running performances, 17.5% for jumps, 8.9% for swimming races, 7.0% for speed skating, and 8.7% in cycling.” This means that there are often thousands of men who can compete at the level of world-champion women. Placing this known competitive advantage in races is not fair to women.
  • study of female rugby players found that 67% of those who “reported menstrual cycle-related symptoms” (93% of all survey respondents) said that menstrual cycle “symptoms impair their performance.” Despite leftist narratives, this issue does not affect men and enables them to constantly be at peak performance.

As Former British Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies tweeted, “Once a male has gone thru puberty there will always be a large retained performance advantage & bone structure. Why are we asking females to accept competing with a known disadvantage before we even start? Females are not men with less testosterone. Compete with your sex.”

What are the current policies, and who sets them?

Each sport and age range has different policies. 

Collegiate Athletics:

  • For college athletics, the NCAA voted in Jan. 2022 to re-align its policies. Now each sport is to follow the standards set by the national federation for that sport; however, if there are no guidelines, then they are to revert back to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) 2015 guidelines, which require biological males to keep testosterone levels under 10 nmol/L to compete as women.
    • Not only is mirroring the IOC policy ineffective in preserving competition and protecting women, but it also commits the NCAA to stand by the IOC’s 2021 policy that states there should be “no presumption of advantage” for transgender individuals “until evidence determines otherwise.”
  • The result of these policies has severely altered and politicized women’s sports. For example, the NCAA refused to allow championships to be held in any state that protects women by prohibiting transgender athletes from competing outside their biological category. This is a transparent attempt by the non-partisan, non-profit NCAA to interfere with state politics for ideological reasons.
  • Despite the IOC’s change in guidelines, the true governing authority for track and field events on this issue for international competition, World Athletics, has set the testosterone suppressant limit at 5nmol/L, revealing that American athletes will be competing against twice the testosterone authority that the international community believes is fair.

Meanwhile, two international sports federations have taken steps in the opposite direction to protect the integrity of women’s sports:

  • FINA, the International Swimming Federation, released updated guidelines in June 2022, banning transgender athletes from swimming in a different category than their birth sex unless they transitioned before puberty. They are also creating an open category for transgender individuals to compete.
  • The International Rugby League banned transwomen from competing in the women’s category “until further research is completed."

Current State Policies that Impact K-12 Sports 

Nineteen states recognize that protecting women’s sports is the fair position in this debate. However, that also means that in 32 other states, there is no oversight on the issue, and women’s sports are threatened. Much like the response seen in the cases of race and gender theory indoctrination and the sexualization of our children, parents in the other 32 states have the ability and the right to advocate and take that fight to the school boards and state legislatures.

Changing the School Board Policy

School boards like the Hempfield School District in Pennsylvania and Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District in Alaska have taken the lead in their states and present grassroots activists with great examples of the type of policies that could be enacted.

Each state and locality have different laws and regulations, so there is not a one-policy-fits-all, but there is common language. The priority is to add clarifying language to the athletics/extracurricular policy section, which defines a student’s gender as the one presented on their birth certificate. As Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District’s policy states:

A student who participates in an athletic team or sport designated female, women, or girls must be female, based on the participant’s biological sex as either female or male, as designated at the participant’s birth. The biological sex listed on a participant’s birth certificate might be relied on to establish the participant's biological sex designated at the participant's birth if the sex designated on the birth certificate was designated at or near the time of the participant’s birth. 

The Biden Administrations Proposed Changes to Title IX

The Biden Administration has proposed changes to Title IX regulations that would reengineer K-12 and postsecondary education to advance a radical sexual identity agenda, harming students and families. By broadening the definition of sexual harassment to include sexual identity and sexual orientation, the Biden Administration will weaken parental rights, undermine female athletics by opening women’s competition to biological male athletes and deepen the campus free speech crisis. 

What would these proposed Title IX changes mean for sports? 

  1. K-12 girls’ athletics competition would be opened to biological males based on federal government mandates.
  2. Biological males would be allowed to compete in female athletics and break women’s records based on federal government mandates.

Implications for Sports Moving Forward

Between the NCAA, IOC, and the Biden Administration’s consistent attack on women’s sports and progression toward the belief of “no presumption of advantage” for transgender athletes, sports governing bodies are destroying 50 years of work to protect and build women's sports. 

Some individualized sports federations like the International Swimming Association and International Rugby Association have taken actions to protect women’s sports from transgender athletes posing unfair competition.

To preserve the dignity of women’s sports, school boards, state legislatures, and national and international sports federations can:

  • Undertake comprehensive reviews of sex-based eligibility criteria informed by scientific experts and the history of male-female performance disparities in the sport.
  • Understand the inherently unfair nature of allowing transgender athletes to compete against biological women.
  • Acknowledge the physical danger posed to women when biological males are allowed to compete against them in contact sports.
  • Make the tough decision to establish governing rules for athletics competitions based on physical, biological reality by requiring athletes to compete in the category of their sex assigned at birth—even in the face of political pressure.

Protecting Women’s Sports Spotlight:

  • Hempfield School District led the charge in Pennsylvania by allowing athletes to only compete in categories aligning with their biological sex.
  • The Georgia High School Athletics Association prohibited transgender athletes from competing in categories that do not align with their biological sex.
  • 19 state legislatures protected women’s sports in K-12 public school athletics

The states that protect women’s sports in college as well are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

What Is Your State’s Policy?

How Do the Majority of Americans Feel About this Issue?

  • 80% of Americans believe “Every American should be treated equally, but it’s important to acknowledge that there are significant biological differences between men and women.” (A Scott Rasmussen National Survey, June 20, 2022)
  • 66% of Americans believe that it should be against the law to perform gender-affirming surgery on anyone under 18 years old. (A Scott Rasmussen National Survey, March 2022)
  • 67% of registered voters “believe biological males have an unfair advantage competing against biological females in women’s sports.” (A Scott Rasmussen National Survey, February 24, 2022)
  • According to a Morning Consult and Politico survey, 53% of Americans support “banning transgender athletes from competing on women’s sports teams.”

Stand up For What You Believe In

Now you understand the debate, so how do you stand up for what you believe in? 

  1. Make your voice heard in your State Capitol
    • Email your state legislator
      • You can find information on your state legislators by typing in your county and then “state legislator” online. Many states make public the legislators’ phone numbers and emails.
    • Call your state legislator
      • You can find information on your state legislators by typing in your county and then “state legislator” online. Many states make public the legislators’ phone numbers and emails.
    • Organize a meeting with state legislators and bring your friends along.
  2. Make your Voice heard in your School Board Meetings 
    • Email your school board members (emails can be found on the district webpage).
    • Call your school board members (phone numbers can often be found on the district website).
    • Speak out at your school board meeting. Click here to learn more about this.
    • Organize a meeting with school board members and bring your friends along. Click here for tips for meeting with your school board members.
    • Run for school board. Click here for tips on running for school board.
  3. Write a letter to the NCAA and voice your opinion on this issue
    • The address to mail letters to the NCAA is:
      • NCAA Eligibility Center
      • Center Processing P.O. Box 7110 Indianapolis, IN 46207-7110
    • The phone number for the NCAA is: 317-917-6222
    • Educate your friends on this debate
  4. Many people feel uncomfortable talking about this because it is a new topic. Make sure your friends understand the implications of these new policies. You are not alone; take a stand.
    • Speak out on social media.
    • Speak out at parent-teacher association meetings.
    • Call your friends and talk to them about this.
  5. Vote for candidates in federal elections, state elections, and local elections that align with your values! A helpful place to start with candidate research is:
    • Candidate’s webpage
    • Candidate’s social media accounts
    • Endorsements—who endorsed this candidate, and do those people align with your values?


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