File this one with questions we never anticipated society would have to contemplate.
A 17-year-old Euless Trinity High School wrestler recently won a girls regional championship after a female opponent forfeited the match.
Mack Beggs is undefeated this season, an impressive record to be sure.
Beggs is also transitioning from female to male, which requires a regimen of testosterone therapy.
Nancy Beggs, Mack’s grandmother and guardian, says the steroids are not meant for performance enhancement; they’re part of physician-administered care, which is allowable under the Texas Education Code and rules of the University Interscholastic League, the body that governs high school athletics.
But that’s the source of some debate — and of a lawsuit by a Coppell lawyer and wrestling parent.
In early February, Jim Baudhuin filed a complaint arguing that Beggs’ use of testosterone exposes opponents to “imminent threat of bodily harm” — a reasonable complaint given that the hormones Beggs’ is taking are designed to suppress female development and expedite the appearance and materialization of typically “male” physical traits, including increased muscle mass.
That would probably make Beggs stronger than the typical female opponent, and in addition to Baudhuin’s contention of threatening bodily harm, would arguably provide Beggs with a competitive advantage over other girls.
Beggs’ grandmother says the young athlete wants to compete with the boys, but UIL rules prevent boys and girls from wrestling each other in Texas.
That, too, seems like a reasonable limitation.
Beggs may be taking testosterone and identify as a boy but is still biologically female.
Biological sex differences mean the average male is stronger than the average female and inter-sex physical competition would probably have overwhelmingly uneven results, not to mention present legitimate risk of bodily harm.
That’s not sexism — it’s science.
But what of individuals like Beggs who straddle the lonely territory between the sexes?
Numerous voices have called for the UIL to make its rules more “fair” and “adequate.”
Jacquielynn Floyd of the Dallas Morning News says it’s not so complicated: “The kids just want to wrestle.”
But exactly what the rules should require is not so easily identified, and what is considered “fair” is far from apparent.
Some would argue that Beggs should not be allowed to compete or should be allowed to compete only with similarly situated individuals, i.e. those transitioning from female to male.
What about cases where males are transitioning to females? Would it be fair or an adequate solution to allow them to wrestle girls?
The International Olympic Committee, which has allowed transgendered athletes to compete since 2004, still has different policies for transgendered males and females.
Should high school rules follow suit? How long before those rules are challenged as unfair and inadequate?
These are all legitimate questions without easy answers.
Still, there are some who would accuse any person who raises these issues as guilty of hatred, ignorance and bigotry in an effort to shut down debate, when the real motivations are far less insidious.
Asking such questions should be part of any exercise seeking to discern what is the ultimate good for all of the kids involved.
And they beg other, broader and impossibly more complex questions about what gender fluidity means for society at large.
If men and women can transition between the sexes, do sex differences even matter?
Are “women’s rights” relevant any longer?
Can women claim disadvantages while simultaneously arguing that gender no longer matters?
In the case of Beggs, it’s likely that every solution offered will be unfair and inadequate on some level, leaving someone disappointed or at a disadvantage.
That’s just the consequence of a culture that has largely lost its ability to deal with polarizing social issues through reason and common sense.