Women’s sport is facing real problems. Trans kids are not that.

Women’s sport is facing real problems. Trans kids are not that.

In their strange obsession with transgender peopleRepublicans have honed in on a key line of attack ahead of this year’s mid-term elections: push up on the bar trans women from playing in women’s sports leagues.

From US Senate candidate Herschel Walker of Georgia, do Iowa Governor Kim Reynoldsthat Florida Senator Rick Scott, leading the Senate Republican campaign, the GOP is maniacally focused on preventing trans women from participating in women’s athletics. And they often framed this as defending women’s sports from attack.

Here’s the thing, though: Women’s sports are loaded with all kinds real problems. And trans people are not one of them. But don’t hold your breath waiting for Republicans to answer any of the legitimate questions.

Last weekend, I came across a panel discussion hosted by Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study earlier this summer about the adoption of Title IX rules 50 years ago, which prohibit discrimination in educational activities based on sex.

As the panelists made abundantly clear, the debate over how to truly improve and advocate for equality in women’s athletics since the Title IX rules were codified is not as sophomoric as the conservative movement would have you believe.

It’s not trans kids ruining women’s sport – it’s predictably misogynistic neglect. And this is more difficult for some women than for others.

For example, Bekah Salwasser, the Boston Red Sox’s executive vice president of social impact, noted that the benefits of Title IX, including the expansion of girls’ sports to high schools across the country, were concentrated among white women while often excluding black and brown women.

And reporter Shira Springer spoke with Traci Green, who coaches women’s tennis at Harvard, about the stubborn lack of women in coaching and athletic director positions at the college level.

Green noted that athletic directors have a powerful platform to advocate for overlooked programs, so a woman in that role can help bring attention and support to often-overlooked women’s teams. (Harvard’s Erin McDermott is one of the few women to hold that position at the faculty level.)

One panelist, writer and filmmaker Melissa Johnson, addressed the right-wing attacks on trans athletes directly.

Johnson, a former basketball player, urged people to reject “a climate of panic, fear and scarcity about what being a trans athlete will mean to you.” None of these women, who are knowledgeable about women’s sports, cited trans kids as an existential threat.

Of course, I trust these people far more than the conservative (mostly) men who lead the charge against trans athletes.

Each of the panelists spoke about more pressing issues that threaten women’s athletics: patriarchal leadership structures, denial of adequate equipment, poor recruitment and media marginalization of women’s sports as a whole.

Check out the panel discussion below!

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