Megan Rapinoe, a two-time women’s world champion and former Ballon D’Or winner, has championed the inclusion of transgender athletes in the sport as more governing bodies. including FIFA and World Athleticsconsider stricter restrictions on transgender participation.
Warning: This article contains a discussion of suicide.
Most important points:
- Megan Rapinoe says sports governing bodies issuing blanket bans on trans athletes are ‘cruel’ and ‘disgusting’
- Former Ballon D’Or winner says there is no evidence to support far-reaching bans as many sports already have rules for elite-level trans athletes
- Some US states have passed laws requiring school-age girls to get genital exams if they are “suspected” of being trans.
In conversation with Time Magazine on MondayRapinoe said much of the decision-making by governing bodies that exclude transgender people was misinformed, and that the rationale behind blanket bans was both unethical and unsupported by evidence.
“I’m 100 percent in favor of trans-inclusion,” Rapinoe said.
“People don’t know much about it. We miss almost everything. Honestly, I think what a lot of people know are versions of the [political] right’s talking points, because they are very loud, they are very consistent, and they are relentless.
“At the highest level there is regulation. In the collegiate sports there is regulation, and at the Olympic and professional levels. It’s not like it’s a free-for-all where everyone just does something.
“So we have to start with inclusion – period. And when things come up, I’m confident we can work it out. But we can’t start with the opposite. That’s cruel. And, frankly, it’s just disgusting.
“We really need to step back and get a handle on what we’re really talking about here because people’s lives are at risk. Children’s lives are at risk from the suicide rate, the rate of depression, and negative mental health and substance abuse.
“Goods [framing] all through ‘God forbid a trans person is successful in sports† Get a grip on reality and take a step back.”
Rapinoe, who plays next to Canada women’s national team and non-binary, trans football player Quinn at NWSL club OL Reign, has been using her high-profile platform for several years to advocate for social causes.
She was the first football player in the world to kneel in solidarity with NFL player Colin Kaepernick, was an equal pay leader of the US women’s national team, and regularly uses interviews and awards speeches to shed light on issues that concern the LGBTQIA+ community of which she is a part.
“I’m not just speaking for myself,” she said. “I speak for many people.
“I was the only player who was ‘out’ for a long time. And so I was the only spokesperson and made sure to lead by example, say the right things, whether it’s on gay marriage or difficult and nuanced topics like trans-inclusion in sport.
“Those are the challenges of just continuing to study.
“Nothing goes unspoken. Speak it clearly. And I’m going to speak it loud, and I think that helps other people who may not have the ability to do that, or who may not yet have the opportunity to do so.”
The United States is facing its own reckoning when it comes to the inclusion of transgender people in sports, with several Republican-controlled states ban transgender people from all sports, despite being unable to provide evidence to support thiswhile others passed laws requiring school-age girls suspected of being trans to undergo a physical examination of the genitals to “prove” that their gender presentation matches their biological sex characteristics.
For Rapinoe, these general sports laws not only disproportionately impact an already marginalized community, but they also fuel a discourse in which success in elite sports takes precedence over the rights and freedoms of transgender people.
“I think people also need to understand that sport is not the most important thing in life, right? Life is the most important thing in life,” she said.
“And so much of this trans-inclusion argument has been put through the extremely small lens of elite sports. That’s not the way to frame this question.
“They kill themselves because they’re told they’re rude and different and bad and sinful and that they can’t play sports with their friends they grew up with. It’s monstrous.
“I would also encourage anyone who is concerned that someone will have an unfair advantage over their child to really step back and think, ‘What are we even 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 no more important than a child’s life.’
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