State Superintendent Catherine Truitt has joined the roiling debate over whether female transgender athletes should be allowed to compete against cisgender women.
For Truitt, it’s a hard no.
At issue for the superintendent is transgender swimmer Lia Thomas’ recent domination of the NCAA women’s championship swimming competition. Thomas swims for the University of Pennsylvania.
Truitt said Olympian Emma Weyant, who swims for the University of Virginia, and Virginia Tech University swimmer Reka Gyorgy, who represented her home country of Hungary in the 2016 Olympics, were “unfairly overshadowed” by Thomas after working hard to compete at the highest level of collegiate athletics.
Weyant finished second to Thomas in the 500 meters swimming championship. Gyorgy missed the cut for the event.
“They should be the ones who are celebrated and honored,” Truitt wrote on her campaign Facebook page.
Gyorgy charges that she would have secured a spot in the finals if Thomas had not been allowed to compete.
“This is my last college meet ever and I feel frustrated,” Gyorgy wrote in a letter to the NCAA. “It feels like that final spot was taken away from me because of the NCAA’s decision to let someone who is not a biological female compete. I know you could say I had the opportunity to swim faster and make the top 16, but this situation makes it a bit different and I can’t help but be angry or sad. It hurts me, my team and other women in the pool.”
Truitt’s empathy for the two swimmers stems from her daughters’ athletic careers. One is a high school track athlete and the other a college track athlete.
“As a mom to daughters who are currently both college and high school athletes that have won the indoor #NorthCarolina pole vault championship and hold several 4A track and field records, this has been difficult to watch unfold,” Truitt wrote. “I’m familiar with the intense hours, training, and commitment my daughters put into their craft so they can compete at their highest levels.”
Truitt, a Republican, joins a growing number of GOP leaders across the country condemning the NCAA’s decision to allow transgender women to compete against cisgender women.
Gina Ciarcia, a congressional candidate in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, told Fox News Digital that female athletes are watching their “hard work and lifelong dreams being ripped away by biological males who aren’t talented enough to be competitive in male sports.”
Last year, North Carolina lawmakers considered a bill to deny transgender women from playing women’s intramural, public school and university sports.
Lawmakers never voted on House Bill 358. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) called the bill a solution in search of a problem.
“A wise legislature does not go out looking for social issues to tap,” Moore told Raleigh’s News & Observer in April.
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) allows students to compete consistent with their gender identity. Many recreational sports organizations have adopted inclusive eligibility policies, as well.
Critics of such policies contend transgender women have an unfair advantage when competing against cisgender women because they are faster, stronger and recover faster.
But Dr. Deanna Adkins, a pediatric endocrinologist who helped establish Duke Child and Adolescent Gender Care at Duke University Hospital in 2015, told Policy Watch last April that many assumptions about transgender athletes are wrong and defy modern science.
Studies cited in HB 358 to make the case for the sports superiority of men and transgender women even after transition relies on decades-old data when the understanding and science of gender transition was much different, she told Policy Watch.
Today, many transgender young people elect to begin a course of hormone blocking treatment that forestalls puberty, Adkins said. This eases their gender transition by preventing the development of many of the secondary sex characteristics associated with the gender they were assigned at birth — including things such as height, muscle development and bone density — that are often cited as advantages in sports.
Adkins said sports have a positive impact on the mental and physical health of youth.
Our goal is to have healthy young people,” Adkins said. “And sport is all about that. If we are going to make people compete according to their assigned sex at birth, there will be many fewer people who take up sports and adopt those things.”