Jonathan Liew, Chief Sports Writer for the Independent, attempted to refute the “transphobic” arguments against allowing transgender athletes to compete against biologically female opponents, that he says are only “based on prejudice and ignorance.”
Liew starts off his February 24 article ridiculing anyone who opposes transgender athletes competing against others of natural-born genders. At one point in his opening salvo, Liew castigates opponents for throwing out a “straw man argument” even as his answer to the charge is itself a straw man argument.
After calling opponents a series of names in his opening paragraphs, Liew goes on to outline what he calls a straw man argument against transgender athletes.
For most of the arguments against allowing trans women to compete in female athletic competition rest on a scenario that borders on the fantastical. Are we really suggesting there are hordes of male athletes who will suddenly declare themselves female simply to game the system? Going through the protracted and often traumatic transition process, securing the necessary medical and psychological documentation, living their entire lives under a fraudulent identity, facing the extreme and often violent prejudice that trans people encounter on a daily basis?
It’s a straw man, a distraction, a pure chimera. In many ways, it falls under the most literal definition of transphobia: an irrational fear of the other, based on ingrained prejudice and occasionally pure ignorance.
But all this, itself, is a straw man argument.
No one is saying “hordes of male athletes will suddenly declare themselves female simply to game the system.”
The absurd situation in Connecticut is a perfect example. Recently news broke that of all the hundreds of girls striving to achieve in high school track and field programs across the state, the top two place winners in the state championships are transgender athletes. Two. It only took two males competing as females to destroy the whole field of hundreds of natural-born female competitors. Not “hordes of male athletes.” Just two. And both blew out the field of hundreds of female competitors.
Liew moved on from that straw man to a second straw man argument. After scolding tennis legend Martina Navratilova for being “misguided” in calling rules allowing biological males to compete against women “cheating,” the Independent writer slammed those who say they want sports to “be fair.”
You know what? Sport isn’t fair. Never has been. Genetics isn’t fair. Basketball players are blessed with height. Gymnasts are blessed with compact, flexible bodies. Fulham players are blessed with a preternatural ability to give the ball away on the halfway line. Economics isn’t fair. Geography isn’t fair. Privilege isn’t fair. What we call the level playing field is in fact a cosy myth, a homespun feel-good tale that hoodwinks us into chasing our dreams.
This is particularly blind coming from a sports writer. After all, if we take his position, then why have any classes at all in sports? After all, why don’t we expect a featherweight boxer to beat a heavyweight? Why do we keep ten-year-old children in leagues with other ten-year-olds instead of expecting the tykes to beat a high schooler? If we should just accept that sports are just inherently “unfair,” then why have any sort of conventions to try to assure that sports is an actual competition?
Liew next claimed that transgender athletes are “inspirations” and not threats to sports. The writer said that even if women’s sports is flooded with transgender athletes and those men pretending to be women suddenly begin winning every title across any number of sports, that can’t be bad for women’s sports.
“Why would that be bad? Really? Imagine the power of a trans child or teenager seeing a trans athlete on the top step of the Olympic podium. In a way, it would be inspiring,” he wrote.
But this is a very typical utopian leftist’s view of things. Why? Because Liew assumes that women would simply continue competing as they always have insensitive and unmindful of all these transgender athletes winning every title they look for. He seems to imagine that transgender athletes would not affect women’s sports.
But, of course, there would be consequences if more and more men claiming to be women were to flood women’s sports.
We have but to listen to natural-born female competitors like teenage runner Selina Soule. After she again lost to the boys who were competing as girls in her state, Soule said, “We all know the outcome of the race before it even starts; it’s demoralizing.” One has to wonder just how long women’s sports categories would exist if no actual woman thought she could win a title due to the flood of transgender competitors. The reality would more likely be that women would simply stop getting into sports in the first place and transgenders would be the death of women’s sports. Liew does not see this obvious truth as he seeks to impose his political position on sports.
Liew ends his screed against nay-sayers with a plea:
It’s going to require some fresh thinking, and a recognition that what we’re brought up to believe isn’t unquestionable truth. That trans people aren’t hostile invaders on the shore, but our friends and our colleagues and our families. That giving some of society’s most marginalised groups a chance to express their talent doesn’t harm anyone. Because trans women are women. And sport, I’m afraid, is only sport.
If his advice is followed, Liew likely rang the death knell for the very thing he claims to love.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.