Keep the playing field level

Things have changed a lot in the last 50 years or so. A lot has been for the better. Some has not. A lot still needs to change, but not everything.

Fifty years ago there were no interscholastic girls sports at the high school level, at least in this area. Now there is a nationwide debate about whether individuals that formerly borns males, but now identify themselves as females, should be allowed to compete athletically against females.

Although the topic of someone deciding to change what sex they want to identify with goes against my moral upbringing, if that’s what someone wants to do, so be it. We live in the United States, after all, where we are supposed to be allowed to believe and think as we like, as long as our beliefs and thoughts do not infringe upon the rights of others.

And that’s where I have problem with this transgender debate as it relates to athletics.

When there were no female interscholastic athletics, girls were sometimes allowed to compete with boys. Somewhere along the line though, most people started to figure that was not fair for the girls (I’d tell you it was not fair for the boys either, but we’ll get to that later) and that girls should be offered the same athletic opportunities as boys. Before long girls high school sports were established across the nation. That was a good thing.

But now that good thing is being challenged. Things have come kind of full circle, to a point now where some believe that transgender athletes who were born as males, but now consider themselves females, should be allowed to complete to against females. And I have to tell you, I just don’t understand it. Because it’s not fair.

Those born as men and women were created differently. Those born as men are generally more muscularly structured. They are stronger. They are faster. That’s just the way it is.

To be fair, those borns as males who now indentify as females may just want to compete against those they identify with. They may just feel more comfortable that way. They may not think they have an advantage. But they do.

If they continue to be allowed to compete against girls, it could eventually be the ruination of women’s athletics. There will be girls that could lose out on opportunities they worked for their entire lives. They could lose a place on team. They could be relegated to a bench player rather they a starter. They could lose out on scholarships. They could even possibly lose out on a way to make a living. Disagree if you like, but to me it’s all pretty obvious.

Those born as males should compete against males. Otherwise, what’s the point of athletically separating the two sexes?

Now, that does not mean women cannot successfully compete against men, or girls against boys. Trust me, in many instances they can.

When I was an eighth-grader in 1975, girls athletics were just starting to be established around here at the high school level. But they had not quite found their to the junior high level. So sometimes, junior high girls were allowed to compete against junior high boys, primarily in track and field.

From the time I was quite young I had a passion for track and field, probably largely because my father was an All-Ohio track athlete, not to mention a member of a 4 x 400-meter relay team at David Limbscomb University that set the Tennessee collegiate record, and later a track and field official. I spent and lot of time around a track as a youngster, and we even had a high jump/pole vault pit in our backyard.

What little talent I had was more suited for long and middle distance running. But in eighth-grade I fancied myself as a hurdler since it was my favorite event. I practiced running the hurdles a lot, usually after my regular track practice was over, and somehow convinced my junior high track coach to let me run the hurdles in a junior high meet or two.

One of those meets was in Greenfield, and on that particular day they were letting some of the girls compete against the boys. And as fate would have it there was a girl named Sandy Hamilton running the hurdles for Greenfield that day. We were neck and neck the whole race, and I felt sure I nipped her at the finish line. But whatever Greenfield official was picking the place we were battling for that day said she beat me. (By the way, she went on to place in the state meet as hurdler in high school).

I was more than a little embarrassed that day, and despite some limited success in high school track and field, I never ran the hurdles in a meet again.

And that’s exactly what I think will happen to some young girls if they are forced to compete against transgender athletes who were born as boys.

Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at or 937-402-2522.

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