On The Third Path in Sports

Today, as I start writing this, the world governing body for swimming as a competitive sport, announced a decision and set of rules that essentially block trans women from every competing with women by requiring them to have “finished transition by age 12”.

I will get to that bizarre idea and how it is specifically chosen to make it impossible later on, but first I want to turn to the fact that they opted — by 71% of the vote — to follow the “third Path”. The “Separate but Equal” path. The path of creating a third category.

First, note that the category is being called “open”. Historically, this indicates a mixed gender sport. Also note that the rules say transgender persons may not compete against *women* — this is a misogynistic concept that underlies a lot of sport under the pretense of “fairness”, but that’s a deeper more involved conversation.

So they are going to spend six months creating a new category called Open, that is intended, one supposes, to enable trans people to compete.  Now, will thiis category be for trans people only? Will trans men be reuired to particpate there as well? What about Enby folks? What about trans women?

Lot’s of questions, but, for the purposes of this article, I want to tackle the issue of the entire concept from a very USian lens of creating a third path, because I hear about it a lot. All of the time. So called “supportive” folks and even some trans people will say “this is the best idea”.

Separate but equal — although professional women’s soccer and basketball had to fucking sue to get even something approximating equality, and it took a structured enforcement of Title IX to create women’s collegiate programs that even today are not equally supported, funded, or even considered to be on par with Men’s programs. Even in mixed gender sports.

So let’s look at this. 

  • The world governing Body will make rules that say this is the international standard. 
  • US Universities and colleges will have to create matching programs.
  • That will in turn force high schools to create matching programs if they want to establish a path to the elite Division 1 schools.

First, there will need to be scholarships, just like for other programs. With very few actual trans competitors, we have to encourage it.

It only took 30 years for that to happen for women’s sports, I will note. Nothing big. Lawsuits, tons of costs, etc. Coaches will need to be hired — because right now, most coaches don’t have the ability to coach trans athletes, as most of the existing ones will tell you. That will result in a lot of angry and grump stuff because budgets for coaches are limited — and a lot of great coaches will not take a salary 30% of the big folks doing the same job — and shouldn’t, just because they are only coaching trans people.

Gear and equipment investment. I mean, yeah, we are only talking about swimming right now, but keep in mind this third path is meant to address all sports. So soccer. Basketball. Football. Baseball/Softball. Field Hockey and Ice Hockey, Track and Field activities. Equipment, coaches — and, oh, we are talking teams, here, so there will need to be a lot of folks involved, because recruiting promising players who are trans is part of the deal here.

In the US, only 1.8% of all athletes play in a division one school — the level that normally is considered to be top tier and Olympic trials level. Only one trans athlete is in that category at present. One. And she just did her last race.

Only 7% overall of all students are engaged in scholastic athletic competition.  Using a generous (and likely pretty accurate) number of 5% for school students who are trans, and then taking the 7% of all students…

First, just under 8 million student athletes exist in the US collegiate system at all levels. That’s an NCAA number.  Using that would give us a *possible* total of 5% of them as being 400,000 people total. That would be a basic rough of the total of trans people (if trans people are able to compete in every single college in the US that has a sports program and there are that many who seek to do so) and only about 40,000 of them would be around for the Division one — again, assuming they can compete at every college, that there are no other barriers, that scholarships exist, and that they want to do so and we are literally just playing with numbers here at this moment.

So let’s say there are 40,000 trans people who could possibly compete at that level. Now, I will note that we know of fewer than 100 trans athletes (women, men, and enby) competing at collegiate level in reality, so we can already see that this will be a long, hard slog.

Now, let’s say that some University of Florida trans — oh, wait.  Florida has a law in place that bans them from being able to.  So does Texas. so do a lot of other states. Yes, I know that they will all fall afoul of Title IX. Sure they will. I have complete faith in the system that spent 30 trying to kill all trans people will be totally fair to them.

But we need to be pretty fair, so we have to take out those states that have laws forbidding competition (and hope that the ones that also forbid competition that take place from permitting those inter-collegiate players from doing it also don’t get caught up) because it will be decades (30 years for women) before they even start to spend money on getting facilities and staffs and all the rest, and the new swimming rules kick in next year.

so let’s see, take them out and rather than be more accurate to the number of Division 1 universities and all that hit, we will just say half will go. So now we are at 20,000 trans athletes in this imaginary system that allows them to suddenly spring into being in 16 months.

Now we have to divide them up among the colleges. The division one schools, of course. Schools must field teams in at least seven sports for men and seven for women or six for men and eight for women, with at least two team sports for each gender. Teams that include both men and women are counted as men’s sports for the purposes of sponsorship counting. Division I schools must meet minimum financial aid awards for their athletics program, and there are maximum financial aid awards for each sport that a Division I school cannot exceed.

So, this is trans, and since we divide by gender, that will mean *three teams* for trans folks. Men, Women, and Enby. Oh yeah, we gotta do that or we twist and threatened the standing of other single gender sports.  You think we are going to successfully put all the TGD folks in one bucket and get “fairness”?

No, it will be three teams. Maybe one coach for all of them in a given sport, but still three teams. Three sets of equipment, three sets of scholarships, three sets of — well, if you don’t get the picture yet I feel something for you and resembles pity because this whole thing is pure fucking bullshit but we are going with it.

Now, let me take a moment to note that all of this will *reduce the allowable funding for men’s and women’s sports*. Not by much, of course, I mean, they will give the trans folks the shittiest used equipment, the cheapest possible stuff, no extra support or anything like they do the men’s team (they don’t do it for women’s teams because they “don’t bring in the attendance money” and trans folk sure as fuck ain’t gonna do it across three teams). But it will reduce it. And who gets hit first and hardest? Women’s teams.

Basketball is a required Sport. So we have to field at least three teams of Basketball players at at least four different colleges that are Division 1. For women’s sports, the rules include sponsoring acrobatics & tumbling, equestrianism, rugby union, triathlon, or wrestling as part of the whole set up — except that for trans folk we can’t do rugby because rugby just flat out said nope.  Period. 

So let’s say that the sports are Swimming & Diving, Basketball, Triathlon, Wrestling, acrobatics & Tumbling, Football, Tennis, and Track and Field. No particular reason except those are the most common or likely sports and I confess to using existing knowledge of current players in those arenas.

Each of them has three teams. That has to be the case at a minimum of Four schools. 96 teams.  Yeah, really. Do the math yourself.

Are you *starting* to see the effect here? Now, we have 20,000 trans elite athletes to place at those schools. except that trans people are not uniformly scattered among Enby, Men, and Women. So it might be a tad bit difficult to get them into teams that work, because there are more Enby folks than Binary folks.

Hey I didn’t make the rules.  Deal.

Now 96 teams with our imaginary equal numbers of trans people means we can probably do pretty good. Out of them we get a couple of teams to go to the olympic trials, and some individual competitors. Who will compete against the same people they have competed against all year, in fully staged and set up extra cost events that…

Oh, yeah, soooo much more money, but we must do this fairly, since the whole fucking point of this is separate but equal in order to be fair, right? There will be the ESPN coverage, the newspaper reporting stats, the rest, right

Of course, there will be those who want to play soccer. Or maybe Golf. Or some other sport, but they won’t get the scholarships and opportunities or even a chance to get to the olympics.

There are indeed exceptions. No question. But those exceptions universally apply to a very specific group of people in the US and the trans community is not part of it.

Not my fucking fault you didn’t pay attention, you wanted this kind of system and I am just laying it out for you.

Me? I don’t fucking give a shit about sports. I am a systems person. I played baseball in little league. I learned golf and tennis. I get tackled in flag football and I think I still have bruises from dodgeball. Or maybe the army. I dunno — I am not a sports person. I went and learned all of this so I could point out how fucking stupid it is as an idea. Because people kept bringing it up over and over and over again.

So we have all this extra effort for 20,000 trans students divided into 96 different teams. We are, of course, assuming that the bodies governing those teams opt to do the exact same thing *on a global basis*. And if not, well, now suddenly it is looking a lot more complicated.

Because then they go to the olympics and they compete in stuff that makes the six days of olympics 8. So the cost for the olympics increases, the cost for those traveling to see them increases, the cost is already so high that a lot of places say no thanks, and then Saudi Arabia get the games.

Where they will not allow any games featuring trans people. Because it is illegal to be a trans person.

Oh, shit. So now even though we, the USA, have adjusted (because we would do that being so great) we can’t send our people because they are being denied the ability after we just spent all this fucking time, money and energy.

Oh, and they got a vote, btw. On the whole thing about trans people competing.  In swimming. They got a vote, hungary got a vote, a bunch of other countries where just *being* trans alone — not doing anything about, just being it — is illegal. doing anything about it means getting the fuck outta that state.

You know, like folks want to do in the US right now.

Now, let’s bring all this shit back to earth.

Ohio wants to do panty checks (yeah, I heard them say that won’t happen but, um, Nassar anyone?) because of 1 girl. 1 girl, out of all the schools in the entire state.  Utah has 7 kids. Total. Out of all the kids in the whole state, 7 who want to play sports. These are grade school kids, not even competitive.

I think the states with the highest are probably California, New York, Massachusetts, and Washington. And I would be shocked to find more than 30 in any single one of them.

Those are not colleges. Those are grade and High schools. The *next generation*.

Colleges — the folks who would have to do this stuff immediately?  Maybe about 50, if we are going to be super generous across all the men, women, and enbies.

How do you propose we form those teams — 96 teams — with less than 100 players?

Not rhetorical. 

But let’s go back to that “before 12 thing”. That rule is essentially meant to catch trans women before they have reached tanner stage 2, which is the earliest point anyone can put them on blockers.  It is, generally speaking, *before* blockers are used for trans women.  It is also well after blockers are often used on trans men.  There is no medical structure in place to genuinely allow that to happen. So their rule erases *all* (ok, I will be fair: 98% of eligible) trans girls from any form of competitive sport they govern. But it sounds like they didn’t do that, because people have been lied to and told it can happen earlier (with trans boys).

I run a program that provides this kind of care. That is my day job. 

This isn’t creating a separate but equal system. This is creating a way to pretend to be nice, but with no way of making it possible — and will ultimately *harm* sports, because I have some news for you:

If you think we won’t tear that shit down in order to play, you haven’t paid attention since Babe Erickson.

We will sue the ever loving fuck out of everything and everyone. 

So the next time someone suggest that, remember that schools are going to have to put in place systems for just one fucking person who has a scholarship and *NO ONE TO PLAY*.

And when you want to compete, that’s just saying they don’t fucking deserve to.

Which is the point of saying separate but equal, in the end, and after all…

It is a nice way of saying you don’t fucking deserve it because you aren’t worth it.