The Republican Party’s outright hatred of the transgender population is at a boiling point. As of this writing, 543 bills limiting the rights of transgender Americans have been introduced in 49 states, with 70 of those bills passing in 14 state legislatures. An additional 17 states have anti-trans bills pending, as legislative sessions in those states are ongoing. This is an obviously disproportionate number of bills targeting one group of people, given that a 2022 study by researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles estimated there were just 1.6 million Americans who identified as transgender – approximately 0.5 percent of the US population. Around 20 percent of the transgender population are children between the ages of 13 and 17, according to UCLA.
According to proponents of these bills, the argument in favor of curtailing transgender Americans’ rights varies from “protecting women’s sports” to unfounded fears about “groomers” and sexual predators supposedly masquerading as drag queens. However, according to attorney Krista Prata Browde of Browde Law, no drag queens have been arrested for sex crimes against minors, at least so far this year.
Browde has been documenting arrests of pedophiles on her TikTok profile since this Spring, and while the arrests include religious leaders and right-wing politicians, drag queens are conspicuously absent from her tally. And as Occupy.com previously reported, numerous Republican elected officials and staffers over the years have been arrested for pedophilia, child pornography, and other sex crimes targeting minors. In the face of the unusually high number of Republican officials being charged and convicted of sex crimes, it could be easily argued that Republicans’ accusations of grooming and pedophilia is classic projection.
Logically, this means that since Republican politicians are statistically far more likely than drag queens and transgender people to be accused or convicted of sex crimes against minors, the GOP’s doubling down on anti-trans politics could be for a different purpose altogether: Gaining back the support of women voters.
The GOP’s war on women cost them politically
Following the US Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision in 2022, what was supposed to be a “red wave” midterm election failed to pan out. Even though Republicans gained back control of the House of Representatives (largely due to strategic racial gerrymandering of Congressional districts) in the midterms last year, they lost ground in the US Senate, with Democrats having a definitive majority for the first time since 2014.
The reasons for Republicans’ failure to retake the Senate was partially due to the unpopularity of Trump-endorsed candidates, but nationwide support for legal abortion was arguably the chief reason for the Republican Party’s tepid performance in November. In every state where an anti-abortion measure was on the 2022 ballot – even in rural, red states like Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana – anti-abortion proponents lost. The reason for this seems obvious on its face: Women make up half of the electorate, and most women are statistically not in favor of laws taking away their reproductive freedom. A 2022 Pew study found that nearly two-thirds of women think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
Women voters’ support for legal abortion presents a problem for the Republican Party’s continued political survival, given that it has historically taken an anti-abortion stance for decades. According to polling from YouGov, female approval of the Republican Party was less than 30 percent in October of 2021, with nearly 62 percent of women disapproving of the GOP. But after Republicans’ weaponization of culture war politics against the transgender population heated up in recent years, they’ve gained back tremendous ground with women voters. By April 2023, YouGov polling showed Republicans had the support of 46 percent of women – a 16-point swing in less than two years. This may very well be due to the GOP’s proclaimed stance on “protecting women’s sports” by bullying the transgender community.
Earlier this year, Mother Jones reported on a trove of emails it obtained showing the depth of planning by various well-funded far-right groups to unleash a wave of anti-trans legislation in statehouses across the country. The groups behind the push include the Alliance Defending Freedom (effectively the religious right’s version of the ACLU) and the Koch-funded Heritage Foundation, among others. This group is the same one that convinced a federal judge in Texas to suspend FDA approval of the abortion pill Mifepristone, which has been safely used in medication abortions (the majority of abortions in the US are done with medication) for more than two decades.
Most of the bills the group advocates for would ban gender-affirming care for minors and limit transgender participation in school sports by requiring trans boys and girls to compete in the sport associated with their biological sex. But these two goals are paradoxical by nature, showing the limit of Republican knowledge about transgender athletic competition and the human endocrine system.
Republican arguments against trans athletes not based in science
USA Swimming – the governing body that oversees competitive swimming in the United States all the way up to the Olympic level – now requires transgender female swimmers to take testosterone suppressants for at least three years before being eligible for competition. However, this would fall under the umbrella of gender-affirming care. This means in states where gender-affirming care for minors is banned, a transgender swimmer would have to break the law in order to comply with the requirements of her sport.
The prevailing argument against transgender inclusion in competitive sports is that trans women (born with male organs) have inherent physiological advantages. However, the medical community has long since debunked this argument. In 2010, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) required that transgender athletes undergo at least one year of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) before being eligible to compete in a sport associated with their new gender. Endocrinologists have since endorsed the NCAA’s rulings.
“Research suggests that androgen deprivation and cross sex hormone treatment in male-to-female transsexuals reduces muscle mass,” Dr. Eric Vilain, Ph.D., professor, and director of the Center for Gender-Based Biology and Chief Medical Genetics Department of Pediatrics at UCLA, said in 2014. “Accordingly, one year of hormone therapy is an appropriate transitional time before a male-to-female student-athlete competes on a women’s team.”
“According to medical experts on this issue, the assumption that a transgender girl or woman competing on a women’s team would have a competitive advantage outside the range of performance and competitive advantage or disadvantage that already exists among female athletes is not supported by evidence,” Drs. Pat Griffin and Helen J. Carroll wrote in a 2010 study.
Aside from outliers like swimmer Lia Thomas, most notable transgender female athletes have had fairly mediocre performances in women’s sports. Tennis player Renee Richards didn’t make it past the first round of the 1977 US Open, and ended up quitting tennis to become an ophthalmologist. In 2021, Olympic weightlifter Laurel Hubbard failed to make the final, with her cisgender female opponents at the Tokyo Olympics all beating her to the podium. In fact, some of the most successful trans athletes have actually been transgender men (born with female organs), further debunking arguments about the supposed dominance of trans women in women’s sports.
Runner Chris Mosier, who began his transition from female to male in 2010, qualified for the Men’s Team USA sprint duathlon roster in 2015, and competed in the 2016 world championships (he was unable to finish due to injury). In Texas, high school wrestler Mack Beggs, who is a trans boy, won the girls’ state championship in 2018. Though Beggs has asked to compete in the boys’ division, Texas requires athletes to compete in the sport associated with the gender on their birth certificate, meaning Beggs has to compete in the girls’ division. In this way, Republicans’ anti-trans policies effectively make sports even less favorable for cisgender athletes.
Despite their anti-trans arguments being repeatedly debunked by scientists, Republicans are winning the culture war and are poised to win further electoral victories by spreading vitriol against the transgender community. They’re counting on the media to continue their false assumption that the GOP’s anti-trans campaign is being conducted in good faith, in order to win back enough women voters to be electorally competitive in 2024 and beyond. This means it’s incumbent on journalists, columnists, and pundits everywhere to thoroughly educate themselves on gender identity issues and the ins and outs of the endocrine system to recognize Republicans’ war on the trans community for what it is: Smoke and mirrors for the sake of bullying a vulnerable population to score cheap political points.