Should cisgender boys be able to compete in girls' school sports?

Before you even ask, no… I’m not happy about using “cisgender” in a title here without it being a sarcastic reference. But the entire transgender sports debate has already muddied the waters of our language so much that it’s tough to avoid sometimes. So here we are.

Getting down to business, a story out of a high school in Westchester County, located just north of New York City, puts a new wrinkle in the debate over preserving competitive girls’ and women’s sports. This time it doesn’t have anything to do with transgender athletes. An actual boy has been competing on the girl’s gymnastics team there for six seasons. That came to an end when the governing body for the league ruled that he could no longer compete as a scoring member of the team because of his inherent physical advantages over his female competitors. So, of course, his family took them to court. (CBS New York)

A Westchester County high school student is fighting back against what he calls gender discrimination.

Cruz Vernon, 17, has one simple wish before he graduates from Ossining High School next year: To compete in gymnastics at the state level…

In seventh grade, he joined his school’s all-girl team. In ninth grade, he even placed in states. But since then, Section 1 – which governs high school sports across several nearby counties including Westchester – banned Vernon from being a scoring member of the team.

I’m not without sympathy for Vernon’s situation. It appears that he’s facing the same quandary that normally poses issues for some girls when it comes to high school sports participation. Particularly in smaller schools and districts, there frequently aren’t sufficient resources and funds to field two separate girls’ and boys’ teams in every sport. This is especially true in sports where one gender is typically considered the default.

Usually, it’s a case of girls wanting to compete in traditionally male-oriented sports like baseball, football or wrestling. But gymnastics is far more common for girls than boys, though both compete at the collegiate and Olympic levels. With that in mind, if his goal is to go on to compete at those levels, it’s understandable how he would want to be able to do it in high school, particularly if he’s hoping for an athletic scholarship.

But Section 1 not only made a good point in their decision but also seemed to do the best they could for him. They didn’t bar him from participating. He was told that he could still travel with the team and perform his routines and be scored by the judges. They just weren’t going to include his scores with the team totals. I’m sure that’s not the same total experience, but he will still have those performances and scores to reference when applying for college.

And none of this changes the fact that males have certain inherent natural advantages over females when it comes to athletic events, as we’ve discussed here many times. It may be true that the advantages aren’t quite as evident in gymnastics (Vernon’s family claims that being taller than the girls is actually a disadvantage), but his limbs are longer, his leg and back muscles are stronger and that probably counts for a lot.

I realize that in the past I’ve argued in favor of allowing girls to compete in the boys’ leagues, so does this mean I’m supporting a double standard here? Yes, it does. But I’m okay with that. If girls really want to compete against the boys and can manage the feat, we should let them because they don’t have a natural advantage. This is particularly true in cases of “gender transitioning” girls like Texas wrestler Mack Beggs. She should arguably be required to wrestle against the boys because her testosterone treatments deliver an unnatural advantage.

Hopefully, Vernon’s family and Section 1 will arrive at a fair and equitable resolution that allows him to develop his athletic career without shutting out any female competitors. It’s the most we can reasonably hope for at this point.

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John Stossel 12:00 AM | April 24, 2024