It’s one thing to hear on the news about transgender athletes taking away opportunities from female athletes. It’s another to hear about it from someone you know.
One of my hobbies is Brazilian-jiu jitsu (BJJ), a grappling martial art that focuses on submitting an opponent through chokes and joint locks. A month ago, I suffered an injury to my ACL in my right knee, so I can barely train. I can’t compete or fully grapple with anyone else in the gym, or at least with any other man in the gym.
A few weeks ago, one of the few female students in the class, who is a white belt like me, told us that she was in an international competition for another combat martial art and she came in second place to a transgender woman.
“You mean a man,” I replied.
“Yeah, but you’re not allowed to say that,” she told me.
“The truth is,” I continued, “that he’s a man and you won first place and the truth is always allowed.”
She appreciated the sentiment, and after the lesson portion of the class, we sparred in a jiu-jitsu grappling session (which we call “rolling”).
Now, this woman is physically fit, not much smaller than me, and with my knee energy I could only use about 20% of my strength. But even with my injuries, I could still easily do things like sweep her onto the ground or move my body for a submission.
Of course, there are female jiu-jitsu practitioners who could twist me into a pretzel and defeat me in 30 seconds given their skill level. In fact, BJJ is a great martial art for women because it gives you skills to help overcome larger and stronger opponents. But the experience showed me how tempting it would be for a male athlete who is not very good against men to suddenly feel like a champion when he beats women who can’t stand up to him.
Men simply have a biological advantage over women, which is why we have segregated sports in the first place. Even if a transgender “woman” has taken testosterone inhibitors, that man has already benefitted from increased bone density and muscle mass given to him through puberty.
This incident reminded me that our culture’s insane rejection of human identity hurts more people than we realize; and female athletes who publicly stand up against this injustice (like Riley Gaines) deserve all of our support.
We shouldn’t demonize transgender athletes or attack them, but we should also lovingly tell them that their value doesn’t come from the medals they win. You can’t truly enjoy praise for your accomplishments if it’s coming from people who have a “cancel-culture” gun to their heads. True athletic joy, like any joy, comes from rejoicing in who God made us to be and seeking a crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8) from him instead of athletic medals won under false pretenses.