John A. Tures
This is a column by John A. Tures, a professor of political science at LaGrange College. He is a regular contributor to the Georgia USA Today Network and can be reached at [email protected]
It was a close game, and my son’s Little League baseball team “The Hot Rods” was holding on to a narrow lead out in the field. An opposing batter rapped a ball to shortstop and ran to first, just barely beating the throw. But as the runner’s foot hit the bag, her helmet flew off, and we could see her pigtails flying.
Everyone froze, and the opposing coach on the mound looked at me in shock. As my son’s team coach, I could have called a forfeit and put a much-needed “W” in our column. Instead, I made the sign for “safe” at first. The coach gasped out an apology. “She wanted to play, and they don’t have a softball league yet.”
Well, our team hung on and prevailed, giving The Hot Rods a winning record by the narrowest of margins. And there’s now a thriving softball league in our county and some star players. I wonder if she’s one of them, perhaps playing for a Division I school.
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She’s not transgender, but I think of that story whenever someone brings up the issue of someone transgender making the sport unfair, assuming someone of the opposite gender (typically a male who transitions and plays against women). It’s an issue that critics have used to bash people who are transgender or those who support transgender rights.
It’s tough for the transgender community. According to the Human Rights Campaign, people who are LGBTQ suffered from the most fatal attacks in 2021. Several states, from Florida to Alabama, passed bills that either restricted anything remotely related to being transgender in education, or directly targeted gender-affirming medical care in the case of Alabama.
And a majority of Americans agree in a YouGov poll that people who are LGBTQ face a lot of discrimination.
My alma mater, Marquette University, polled Wisconsinites in the battleground state on how they feel about transgender people. While less than a quarter of the sample (22%) back “participation on sports teams that match an athlete’s current gender identity,” another 62% disagree with this position.
Yet in that same poll, nearly half of all respondents would “support laws that ban discrimination based on whether a person is transgender” while only 39% would oppose such laws.
Even Fox News admitted in its report on transgender athletes that a majority of people don’t think that society has gone too far in accepting transgender identities. Only a third of people agreed with that statement in an NBC poll “while 35% say the country has not gone far enough to end discrimination against transgender people.” Another 25% say that the country has reached a reasonable balance in how it treats transgender people.
The ban on transgender people competing in sports is a complicated one, but one that reasonable people can come up with an acceptable compromise for unless someone’s goal is to divide our country over the issue.
But one area that people are less willing to support is discrimination against LGBTQ people. In my classes, my liberal and conservative students love to debate each other, but they are almost to a person very unified against someone targeting another person who identifies as LGBTQ.
Those who hope to ride an anti-trans wave to higher office are about to learn a hard lesson. Americans are more supportive of transgender people than the athlete issue alone would seem to indicate.