Mack Beggs said in February that he doesn’t wrestle to carry the transgender torch.
But the 18-year-old transgender student who won a Texas state championship wrestling against girls in February because of the UIL’s ruling that the gender on his birth certificate should govern who he competes against spoke up Tuesday in an advocacy video targeted at Texas lawmakers who are considering the so-called “bathroom bill” in a legislative special session.
“Transgender athletes aren’t cheating. We aren’t choosing. We belong,” Beggs says in the video. “And now legislators are trying to take that from us and strip us of legal protections. ... Transgender people are not to be feared. We deserve the same rights and protections as everyone else.
“Our ability to access spaces consistent with our gender identities and to have the same legal protections and opportunities to thrive should not be infringed upon.”
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Beggs partnered with a group called Athlete Ally, which was started by straight and cisgender athletes to support their LGBT teammates, for the message as state legislators are considering various topics, including bathroom legislation like Senate Bill 6, which was also known as the Texas Privacy Act. That bill would have required people using restrooms in publicly owned buildings to use the restroom that matches their “biological sex.”
The video starts with images of Beggs, as he recalls times he was able to use restrooms and locker rooms that fit his gender identity, before images of Reneé Richards, a transgender woman and former professional tennis player, and Aydian Dowling, a model and the first transgender man to appear on the cover of Men’s Health magazine provide more examples of transgender trailblazers in the world of sports and fitness.
USA wrestling recently enacted a policy, more in line with NCAA police and contrary to UIL policy, that allows for transgender boys to wrestle against boys once they have declared their identity to be male. The UIL did not change its rule during June’s legislative council, so it appears, for now, that Beggs will return to wrestling girls during his senior season.
But in the video with Athlete Ally, Beggs is concerned with a wider audience than wrestlers: people from all walks of life, like him.
“If you’re a legislator thinking of passing a bill that denies who we are and makes people fear us, stop,” Beggs tells Texas lawmakers in the video. “We exist and so do our rights.”