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OK, Megan Rapinoe, we all know sports is not the most important thing in life... but can't we still talk about it?
Megan Rapinoe talked to TIME Magazine about the conflict over including trans-identifying males in female sports:
You mentioned the issue of transgender inclusion in sports, which is such a hot subject right now, as many states have passed bills that ban or limit transgender sports participation. Where do you stand on this issue?
I’m 100% supportive of trans inclusion. People do not know very much about it. We’re missing almost everything. Frankly, I think what a lot of people know is versions of the right’s talking points because they’re very loud. They’re very consistent, and they’re relentless…
And I think people also need to understand that sports is not the most important thing in life, right? Life is the most important thing in life. And so much of this trans inclusion argument has been put through the extremely tiny lens of elite sports. Like that is not the way that we need to be framing this question. We’re talking about kids. We’re talking about people’s lives. We’re talking about the entire state government coming down on one child in some states, three children in some states. They are committing suicide, because they are being told that they’re gross and different and evil and sinful and they can’t play sports with their friends that they grew up with. Not to mention trying to take away health care. I think it’s monstrous.
I would also encourage everyone out there who is afraid someone’s going to have an unfair advantage over their kid to really take a step back and think what are we actually talking about here. We’re talking about people’s lives. I’m sorry, your kid’s high school volleyball team just isn’t that important. It’s not more important than any one kid’s life.
Show me the evidence that trans women are taking everyone’s scholarships, are dominating in every sport, are winning every title. I’m sorry, it’s just not happening. So we need to start from inclusion, period. And as things arise, I have confidence that we can figure it out. But we can’t start at the opposite. That is cruel. And frankly, it’s just disgusting.
So, we need to really kind of take a step back and get a grip on what we’re really talking about here because people’s lives are at risk. Kids’ lives are at risk with the rates of suicide, the rates of depression and negative mental health and drug abuse. We’re putting everything through God forbid a trans person be successful in sports. Get a grip on reality and take a step back.
Google Translate tells me this is just a long way to say “I’ve got endorsements to protect and I can’t afford to think this one through!”
I’m no expert on soccer, but I know a few things about bullshit. So, let’s talk about what Rapinoe had to say.
First, Rapinoe sets an impossibly high bar for impact. Are males competing in female sports leagues “taking everyone’s scholarships,” “dominating in every sport,” or “winning every title”? Of course not. “[I]t’s just not happening.” Short of total domination, why should anyone care about the effects of including males in female sports? In particular, why should elite female athletes like Rapinoe—who won the FIFA Women’s World Cup but lost to a team of ordinary teenage boys—care? If this issue ever starts to matter, Rapinoe assures readers, she’ll start caring: “we can figure it out.” In the meantime, starting from the position of fairness for female athletes is “just cruel” and “disgusting.” (Don’t ask her to explain why. Surely, bolting down an answer to that question would be billable emotional labor and, if we know one thing about trans allies, it’s that they’re always out of spoons…)
Let’s “get a grip” and “take a step back,” OK? (In Rapinoe’s playbook, “getting a grip” and “taking a step back” are such important moves that she mentions them twice in ajust 400 words.) Clearly, if we don’t get a grip and take a step back, we’re at risk of asking the wrong questions or arriving at the wrong conclusions. Rapinoe wants everybody to know this isn’t really about fairness or inclusion. It’s not even about sport at all! This is about kids’ lives being at risk. That means everybody else needs to stop talking right now. Good vibes only.
(For another fun example, see yesterday’s ex-swim-coach-turned-Twitter-brain-trust warn that if men aren’t allowed to compete against female swimmers at the elite level, more people will drown!)
By this point, Rapinoe’s run all over the field and she’s out of breath. She starts to contradict herself. A minute ago, trans-identified males in female sports were such a non-issue no one should care. Now, Rapinoe sneers: “God forbid a trans person be successful at sports.” She’s dripping with derision: God forbid some women lose scholarships or get pushed off the podium or out of sport altogether—as though women were sore losers for expecting the same fair shot Rapinoe got. It’s a remarkable conclusion for an elite athlete like Rapinoe to reach. She rose through the ranks of her sport. At every level, Rapinoe had hurdles to jump or baskets to dunk or linemen to outflank or—how does soccer work again? Let’s just say she had challenges to overcome. I’ve no doubt she trained hard. But without a level playing field, she, too, would have had to find some other passion, some other way to earn a living. She would never have known the joy of winning fair and square. (And the trans athletes she champions won’t know this joy either, of course: they may win, but it won’t be fair.)
Rapinoe’s right: sports is not the most important thing in life. Funnily enough, nobody suggested it was. All the interviewer did was ask where Rapinoe stands on the subject of trans inclusion in female sports. Rapinoe’s the one who keeps changing the topic and moving the goal posts. If we’re talking about sports, let’s talk about sports.
Really, why should Rapinoe care about the next generation of female athletes, who will lose out to boys not in a scrimmage match after a World Cup victory but at every level, until they’re outcompeted or out of hope, since the game’s rigged against girls from the start. Megan Rapinoe, you don’t need 400 words the next time you want to weigh in on the conflict between fairness for women and girls and inclusion for trans-identified males in female sports. You can just say: “Fair play? Who cares?”