Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
A difficult issue, but Stitt's divisive solution serves nobody
Not one transgender athlete is competing in Oklahoma, let alone stirring controversy, but that hasn't kept the governor from embarrassing us again
I’m struggling to come to a position on Lia Thomas, the transgender athlete without whom the despicable spectacle put on by our governor, Kevin Stitt, may not have been politically possible.
Wednesday, surrounded by young female athletes or future female athletes, Stitt signed into law Senate Bill 2, banning transgender girls and women from competing in girls and women’s high school and college sports in Oklahoma.
Thomas, as you may or may not know, is the national face of the issue. After competing on the men’s swimming team at Penn for two seasons, she has since transitioned and, following a year out of the competitive pool, this past collegiate swimming season claimed an individual national championship in the 500-yard women’s freestyle, finishing in 4:33.24.
Thomas is allowed to compete as a woman because, through the transitioning process, she has undergone one year of testosterone suppression treatment and her serum testosterone level has been measured below the allowable threshold, which are the NCAA’s requirements.
Believe it or not, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association initiated its own policy with its own guidelines in 2015, one in line with several other states to have addressed the issue.
I don’t know where to come down on Thomas, precisely, because while my progressive heart wants to be on her side as easily as it was on Casey Martin’s when he sued the PGA Tour to be allowed to play golf out of a cart, my sense of fair play has yet to fall into alignment.
While I was quite sure Martin, who suffers from Klippel–Trénaunay syndrome, would not receive a competitive advantage if allowed to ride, I’m not certain about Thomas.
I’ve seen a rundown of Thomas’ best pre- and post-transition times.
Not only is she significantly slower post-transition, she’s actually further off the world records in the 200-yard freestyle, 500 freestyle and 1650 freestyle now, competing against women, than she was previously, competing against men.
So, if she’s in it for world records — I presume she’s in it to live authentically — she’s going the wrong direction.
On the other hand, pre-transition, nor was she competing for NCAA championships but she absolutely has since and it’s undeniable.
Though further off world records than before, she is also faster than many more competitors than before.
So I’m not sure.
What I’m sure about is Kevin Stitt doesn’t care one bit about doing the right thing, because the spectacle he put on Wednesday was entirely divisive, unnecessary and unsettling.
I mentioned he was surrounded by young female, or future female, athletes.
I made the distinction because pictures from the signing clearly show girls who couldn’t yet be 10 years old holding up signs proclaiming “SAVE WOMEN’S SPORTS,” as though they have any idea about the intricacies of the issue or legislation.
There were college athletes there, too, who absolutely knew why they were there, which only makes it more unfortunate they willingly became political props for a governor who cares about political points more than people and a problem that doesn’t exist and has never existed in Oklahoma.
It’s stunning an organization as lost in time as the OSSAA has had guidelines in place for transgender athletes for seven years, but bully for it, it got something right, and for all we know those guidelines would have sufficed, making a marginalizing law wholly unnecessary, to nobody’s benefit and everybody’s detriment because what we don’t need in this state are fights over nothing.
“Girls should compete against girls,” Stitt said. “Boys should compete against boys.”
Do you think we should tell him salt and pepper are only two available seasonings or is his brain’s not large enough to handle the complexity of that, too?
Ben Felder covered Stitt’s ceremony for The Oklahoman and reported this:
Stitt said he was unaware of any current transgender athletes in the state and said he had not spoken with any transgender person while considering the bill.
When it comes to lack of knowledge, our governor’s out front.
What should have happened is nothing.
Because Lia Thomas won an NCAA championship and because she is a transgender athlete who may have a competitive advantage, people don’t know what to think, some are afraid of what they don’t understand, and the governor of the great state of Oklahoma is not prone to choosing the common good over political expediency, no matter the human consequences.
Thomas is a matter for the NCAA, the Ivy League and, perhaps, the court system, should other schools or athletes be so moved as to want to block her from competing.
It would be unfortunate if things become that heated, but maybe that’s better than punishing every other transgender athlete, who is not followed around by a furor of disapproval, who is getting along just fine with teammates and opponents, than to put in place universal rules designed not to save women’s sports or to protect competitive fairness, but to ride the cultural divide for the sake of power.
Stitt just finished going after public education. Now he’s gone after young people who are clearly going through much in their lives, who threaten nobody, female athletes included, at least not yet, even at the podium.
For Kevin Stitt?
It was only Wednesday.
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