Op-Eds as submitted to GoErie/Erie Times & Gannett News Outlets in PA

Part 1/3 A Basic Understanding of Transgender People

This is the first article in a series comprised of:
Part 1 A Basic Understanding of Transgender People
Part 2 Questioning Trans Feminine Sports Participation
Part 3 Benefits of Trans Feminine Sports Inclusion

This series will hopefully inform you of things you may not know about transgender people and the legislation we face living in Pennsylvania. As with any subject we must establish a basic understanding.

Some Definitions

Gender” Non Physical characteristics defining a spectrum from femininity to masculinity.

Sex” Physical characteristics defining a spectrum from femininity to masculinity.

Cisgender” Adjective a person whose gender aligns with their sex.

Transgender” Adjective a person whose gender does not align with their sex.

Transgender girl/woman” A person whose gender is female regardless of her physical sexual characteristics.

Transgender boy/man” A person whose gender is male regardless of his physical sexual characteristics.

Gender fluid person” A person whose gender fluctuates.

Non-binary person” A person who whose gender may fall between female and male and usually does not fluctuate. This person may also not have a gender

Intersex person” A person whose physical sexual characteristics may be difficult to identify.

Gender Expression” External, visible characteristics such as clothing, makeup or the lack of, and actions.

Gender Dysphoria” The stress, anxiety, and discomfort one feels when a gender and sex do not match.

Puberty Blockers” Medications which delay the onset of puberty and its physical changes. They have been used safely since the ’70s to treat early onset puberty.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)” Medicinal therapy to suppress some hormones while supplementing others.

“World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH)” A professional organization established in 1979 devoted to understanding and treatment of gender dysphoria. Membership consists of those working in medicine, psychology, law, social work, counseling, psychotherapy, family studies, sociology, anthropology, speech and voice therapy and sexology.


The WPATH-developed “Standards of Care” describes standards including safe hormone levels and the length of gender expression before surgeries. While primarily designed for safety, excessive application by people and organizations is referred to as gatekeeping. Some gates are justifiably placed to ensure medical safety. Others such as the requirement to obtain a doctor’s or therapist’s letter indicating we have lived our gender expression are time consuming and expensive barriers. Imagine needing a doctor’s or therapist’s approval before updating your license because you changed your hairstyle, shaved your beard, or grew facial hair. Failure to have updated IDs can lead to our harassment and discrimination.

We have existed throughout history. Julian Gill-Peterson a professor at the University of Pittsburgh has authored ”Histories of the Transgender Child” (ISBN: 9781517904678) shows examples from the 1900s forward.

Many attend regular therapy sessions for our mental general health and to comply with WPATH standards. Compliance allows us to get required recommendation letters for medical procedures as well as identification updates.

Some often suffer from depression brought on by gender dysphoria, accompanied by stresses society places on us. This starts for some at or before the onset of puberty. Think back to when you were young. Did you want to develop a curvy figure, or a muscular one? How excited were you to have a salon appointment or to shave? We feel these feelings too but they are complicated because our sex does not match our gender.

We are told repeatedly by many religions that our existence is wrong and evil.

We often hide our identities as part of our self preservation instinct, sometimes for decades.

We develop unhealthy methods for dealing with these stresses. We have a higher than average rate of turning to drugs or alcohol. These coping methods can foster deep, dangerous depressions. This depression is sometimes inescapable. It is estimated 40% of transgender people have contemplated or attempted suicide. To put this number in perspective: The 2017 report “Age of Individuals who identify as transgender in the United States — Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law” estimates there are 1.5 million transgender people 13 and up in the United States. Pennsylvania’s share is 48,850. We can calculate roughly 19,500 trans Pennsylvanians have contemplated or attempted suicide.

Trans people are just that, people. Trans girls/women are girls/women. Trans boys/men are boys/men. Gender non-conforming people are the gender and even the non-gender they say they are. Each trans person experiences gender and transition differently. There are some commonalities but each process is unique.

We prosper and falter based on how we experience the same situations cis people experience.

Part 2/3 Questioning Trans Feminine Sports Participation

This is the second article in a series comprised of:
Part 1 A Basic Understanding of Transgender People
Part 2 Questioning Trans Feminine Sports Participation
Part 3 Benefits of Trans Feminine Sports Inclusion

Does enough of an issue exist with transgender girls/women participation in sports to warrant a law governing trans lives and hindering their social development? Let’s discuss three common questions on the topic.

Do trans girls/women have an unfair physical advantage in sports?

Before we begin, Can you name a trans girl or woman athlete, through college age who has dominated her sport after coming out or beginning her transition?

The effects of “Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)” and “Puberty Blockers” replace or reduce testosterone production in trans females to levels similar to that of cisgender females. Without higher levels of testosterone, our strength diminishes rather quickly. It diminishes so much that the International Olympic Committee allowed trans athletes to compete starting in 2004.

Name a trans girl or woman who has dominated her sport in the Olympics since 2004?

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) trans guidelines stated this in 2011:

Transgender women display a great deal of physical variation, just as there is a great deal of natural variation in physical size and ability among non-transgender women and men. Many people may have a stereotype that all transgender women are unusually tall and have large bones and muscles. But that is not true. A male-to-female transgender woman may be small and slight, even if she is not on hormone blockers or taking estrogen. It is important not to overgeneralize. The assumption that all male-bodied people are taller, stronger, and more highly skilled in a sport than all female-bodied people is not accurate.

Name a trans girl or woman who has dominated her sport during her NCAA eligibility?

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) makes these statements in their policies and procedures guide.

(PIAA) is committed to the principles of equal opportunity and treatment for all individuals involved in interscholastic athletics. PIAA believes that all boys and girls, Coaches, Contest officials, and athletic administrators should have equal opportunity to participate in, Coach, officiate, and administer at all levels of interscholastic athletics and receive equal treatment, without regard to race, color, religion, gender, age, national origin, or ethnic background.

Where a student’s gender is questioned or uncertain, the decision of the Principal as to the student’s gender will be accepted by PIAA.”

The 2017 report “Age of Individuals who identify as transgender in the United States — The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law” estimates there are 5,250 trans Pennsylvanians aged 13–17. Assuming roughly two thirds of these are trans girls, gives us 3,465 trans girls. The Pennsylvania Department of Education lists 394,438 girls enrolled in 2016–17. The website indicates 38% (150,250) participated in sports. Applying this percentage to the number of trans girls, we arrive at 1,316 or 0.01% of Pennsylvania’s 12.79 million 2017 population.

Name any of these 1,316 Pennsylvania trans girls who have dominated her sport since 2017?

Will trans females sexually assault other girls and women in the locker room or bathroom?

Trans girls and women are generally incapable of the male functions needed to perpetrate these acts. Hormone replacement therapy and puberty blockers bring testosterone to an extremely low level. Affecting libido and capability of sexual function. Without the capability to have a typical male sexual function the likelihood of a trans girl or woman being capable of such an attack becomes minimal.

Trans girls and women are often affected by gender dysphoria to the point that the concept of taking a typical man’s role for a sexual encounter is so extremely uncomfortable that we would remove ourselves from the situation as quickly as possible.

Are women’s sports threatened by trans girls/women’s participation?

On March 31, 2021 (Coincidentally the 12th annual Transgender Day of Visibility) reported on a letter penned by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). “More than 465 superstars and everyday feminists added their names to the letter objecting to the targeting of trans women and girls.” Among those who signed were United States Women’s National Soccer Team members: Megan Rapinoe, Ali Krieger, and Ashlyn Harris.

One of the strongest statements in the letter:

We all must fight against the unnecessary and unethical barriers placed on trans women and girls by lawmakers and those who co-opt the feminist label in the name of division and hatred. Our feminism must be unapologetically expansive so that we can leave the door open for future generations.

Trans girls/women are girls/women. Medical and mental health professionals have stated this. University researchers have stated this. Sports organizations have stated this. Should we not listen to the experts?

Part 3/3 Benefits of Trans Feminine Sports Inclusion

This is the third article in a series comprised of:
Part 1 A Basic Understanding of Transgender People
Part 2 Questioning Trans Feminine Sports Participation
Part 3 Benefits of Trans Feminine Sports Inclusion

Nearly everyone benefits from exercise. There have been hundreds if not thousands of studies by universities and medical facilities which show exercise has positive benefits.

Among these are the general health improvements of reduced chronic illnesses, like diabetes, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease. The Primary Care Companion Journal of Clinical Psychiatry v.8(2); 2006 PMC1470658 also lists some mental health benefits: “Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function.” Exercise has even removed the need for some usage of antidepressant medications.

Exercise has also been linked to better scholastic performance and higher grades. The 2013 report “Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School” (ISBN 978–0–309–28313–7) lists these benefits:

  • Available evidence suggests that mathematics and reading are the academic topics that are most influenced by physical activity. These topics depend on efficient and effective executive function, which has been linked to physical activity and physical fitness.
  • Executive function and brain health underlie academic performance. Basic cognitive functions related to attention and memory facilitate learning, and these functions are enhanced by physical activity and higher aerobic fitness.
  • Single sessions of and long-term participation in physical activity improve cognitive performance and brain health. Children who participate in vigorous- or moderate-intensity physical activity benefit the most.

But what about sports? Sports, especially team based ones, add a social component. Sport after all is really just socially organized exercise. Athletes learn how to better interact with others. Some team members will develop into leaders, while some may take on a counseling or supporting role, and still others may only benefit from having a consistent structure and schedule. All who participate learn how to interact with each other and their coaches during their combined successes and failures. Individual sports such as track or swimming allow each athlete to compete more against themselves than others while still maintaining the social aspect of a team. Lifelong friendships and personal support networks form through these experiences.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) transgender inclusion guidelines from 2011 state:

School-based sports, even at the most competitive levels, remain an integral part of the process of education and development of young people, especially emerging leaders in our society.

We know from the previous articles in this series that transgender people experience depression, anxiety, stress, a higher rate of substance abuse, a higher rate of suicide, and isolation brought about by fear for our safety. Many of these issues are due to social influences outside of a trans person’s control. We don’t have to look up census statistics to know transgender females are a subset of a minority population. If there was a way to reduce or eliminate these issues should we not choose to apply it?

Let’s apply what we know to only one issue trans people face, depression. It is known that sport can in some cases eliminate said depression. It only follows that sport should be highly encouraged for trans people, even more so than antidepressants. Since team based sports foster more of the social aspect, they should be the preferred activity suggested for a trans person. The most tangible benefit of this combination would be a decreased risk of transgender suicide brought on by depression. The other benefits listed above would also apply to a trans athlete, including becoming a well rounded and socially adjusted person who no longer fears their environment but one who can live and thrive in it.

We as Pennsylvanians should be focusing on the things we can do to improve not only our lives but the lives of those around us, especially those who comprise a minority.

It has often been said one of the greatest gifts one can give a child is the freedom to be who they are. Components of this gift should be the ability to participate in sports and all the benefits which come with that ability. I am asking you to offer this gift to all Pennsylvania’s children, not just the cisgender ones.

Let's Do the Time Warp Again