Morgin Dupont, 25, a woman of trans experience, holds up the flag for Transgender and Gender Noncomforming people at a rally for LGBTQI+ rights at Washington Square Park. (Yana Paskova/Getty Images)
The International Olympic Committee started to allow trans athletes to compete in 2004 – but it wasn’t until last month, at the Tokyo Olympics, that openly trans athletes went for gold. Trans and nonbinary athletes like Chris Mosier, Laurel Hubbard and Alana Smith are role models who broke barriers and were celebrated for advancing inclusion in professional sports.
Yet there are still people, like Eli Bremer, one of the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, who see this as an opportunity to spread dangerous lies about trans athletes in the name of advancing their political agenda.
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Earlier this month, when announcing his candidacy for U.S. Senate, Bremer, of Colorado, made the issue of “men competing in women’s sports” a cornerstone of his campaign. Bremer’s gratuitous attack on trans people mirrors the rhetoric of former President Donald Trump and other Republicans who’ve grossly used trans people as a tool to make people afraid to get more votes.
Here’s what I know from my time as a world-ranked tennis player. I competed in every Grand Slam tournament and am proud of my third-round appearances at the Australian and French Open while representing my native country, Germany. Along the way I played against and learned from people from all backgrounds, and ultimately that made me a better player and human. Compared to cisgender athletes, trans athletes face discrimination and alienating rules that cisgender people can’t even begin to fathom. Trans athletes deserve to play the same as any other athlete. Anyone who fights to be themselves on and off the field or court are role models of inner strength and resiliency. As athletes and as human beings, we learn from each other when we are around people who embrace who they are.
Compared to cisgender athletes, trans athletes face discrimination and alienating rules that cisgender people can’t even begin to fathom.
Beyond personal experience, the science supports this. Dr. Joshua D. Safer, executive director of the Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York, says “a person’s genetic make-up and internal and external reproductive anatomy are not useful indicators of athletic performance,” and argues that “there is no inherent reason why physiological characteristics related to athletic performance should be treated differently from the physiological characteristics of a non-transgender woman.”
So why do Republicans like Bremer continue to attack trans athletes?
They use it to gain political clout with their radical base. Bremer is following the example set by politicians like Trump and Rep. Lauren Boebert who stoked fear and discrimination against trans people while in office. During Trump’s presidency, he undeniably made trans people a target by banning them from serving in the military — even though military leaders publicly opposed it.
Earlier this year Colorado Public Radio reported Bremer actually agreed with Boebert in criticizing the Equality Act by falsely claiming it “could dismantle girls’ sports.” His reasoning? He alleged people will take advantage and change their identity just to get ahead. It’s absurd to minimize the experiences of trans people by suggesting that someone would voluntarily change their gender for any type of advantage, much less in pursuit of an athletic one. But Bremer has tried and failed to win an office within the GOP in Colorado multiple times in the last decade and is willing to resort to lies to bolster his chances in this race.
There is a cost to Eli Bremer’s hate. Attacks made against the trans community and anti-trans legislative efforts contribute to the high rates of suicide and depression. The Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, and that number includes more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. And more than 30 states have proposed laws banning or restricting trans athletes from participating in youth, high school, and college sports.
Don’t let Bremer fool you into thinking this is about women’s sports. If Bremer really cared about women competing in sports, he would fight to level the playing field and give women equal opportunities to men. When Bremer could be speaking out against pay inequality for professional female athletes, he’s instead cynically using women and trans athletes to prop up his desperate and doomed political career.
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