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Unsold op-ed: Track and trans

Tuesday 7/9/19

What trans people and Selina Soule have in common, and what should be our common ground

By Colin Fleming

We do not hand out gold medals and championship trophies for bravery, but if we did, there is no athlete in America more deserving of those laurels than Selina Soule, a young woman in Connecticut who runs high school track.

She is one of three such women who have filed a federal discrimination complaint against the state’s policy of allowing biological males who identify as trans to compete against females. The other two women elected not to have their names made public—which is understandable—but Soule is clearly the outlier that all of us, in our daily existences, should aspire to be as we seek a better status quo.

There are all forms of discrimination in this world. We privilege certain varieties above others. Discrimination the basis of color, for instance, is right up there, but we also discriminate against those who are smarter than us, work harder than us, and there is what I call collateral discrimination, which is what has happened to Soule.

You work for something, you have dreams. You train. You want to prove yourself against your peers. You want a scholarship. You want to convert dreams into realities.

One reality is that people should be able to identify as they see fit. After all, how many of us ever truly discover what we really are? That’s a lifelong process. And if at some age you discover that you are something you had not foreseen, you should be commended for having the courage to embrace this, both internally, and in bringing it outward into your life.

But another reality is that a biological male—and we’re talking straight up science—can annihilate a biological female in athletics. Some people try so hard to toe the party line of “woke at all costs” that they either don’t realize or don’t care that they’re sabotaging the dreams and violating any semblance of equity when someone like Soule has to compete and lose—because of the ineluctability of science—and then, in effect, take one for the team of social justice.

It’s like she should just know her place. And this young women’s place, such as it is, is whatever she can earn in as unbiased a setting as possible. Period.

I think a lot of the current iteration of feminism comes down to “hooray for our side.” I often find that it’s not about equality. This is human nature. A cause is sounded, and people on the side of that cause want power. They don’t necessarily orient around fair play. That’s how humans work. We have to in turn work hard to keep our eyes on the prize of equity. Be a humanist. Believe in that.

Rare is the person given something they did not earn, who says, “You know what, this isn’t right, this isn’t what we’re hoping to achieve here, let’s reexamine this.”

Soule knew she was going to get pasted by people who ought to be looking out for her—not that she needs looking out for. But in this life we are tasked with looking out for each other. Nothing may be more important to our humanity and its upkeep than trying to help people.

“Good looking out” is a funny phrase you used to hear, but I think it doubles as the beginning of a modern catechism. The biological male athletes who displace the likes of Soule are not, in their hearts, heads, souls, male. But on a track, they are. And that rigs the game.

The game had been rigged against those trans people in the sense that they entered this world and were told they were something they were not, and it took courage for them to break free of what must have been a kind of shackling.

If anyone can understand that that shouldn’t be done to young women like Soule, it is people like that, who share some of her courage.

They did what was right by them, which itself was right; and she has done the exact same thing, and just as we support trans people, we need to support young women like this and let them fight for their dreams on as level as playing field as we can help foster in this age.


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