The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has given its support to a new piece of legislation that aims to keep male athletes from competing in athletic teams and competitions for women and girls.
Bishop Michael C. Barber, S.J. of Oakland and Bishop David A. Konderla of Tulsa sent a letter on October 27 to Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL), the lead sponsors of the Senate and House versions of the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, applauding their bill.
The legislation would prevent entities receiving federal Title IX funds from allowing male students to participate in athletic programs and teams for female students.
Barber is the leader of the USCCB’s committee on Catholic education; Konderla is the chairman of the subcommittee for the promotion and the protection of marriage.
“Youth who experience gender identity discordance should be assured the right to participate in, or try-out for, student athletics on the same terms as any of their peers, in co-educational activities or, where sexes are separated, in accord with their given sex,” said the bishops, adding that “Harassment or unjust discrimination against them in this regard is unequivocally immoral.”
The bishops advocated for a “loving response” to these students, saying that it would assist in developing “a genuine peace with their mind and body, rather than facilitating drastic ‘transitions’ in pursuit of an identity fully independent of their physical body.”
Allowing male students to participate in athletics with girls “can be both unfair, and especially in high-contact sports, unsafe,” said the bishops.
While they acknowledged that some women have been able to play successfully in mostly-male sports, “any time a policy facilitating such male competition takes an athletic opportunity away from a female, it is a loss for basic fairness and the spirit of Title IX.”
Several female track athletes from Connecticut are presently suing the state’s interscholastic athletic conference after two students, born male but who identify as female, dominated the girl’s track competitions at the state level. The female athletes argued that the two male runners took away chances for them to compete on the national and state levels.
“In general, males possess distinct physical advantages in a number of sports, and this is already playing out in athletic events worldwide,” said the bishops.
“Their stature can also pose physical safety concerns in high-contact sports. Neither of these concerns is remediated by cross-sex hormone procedures which are required by some athletic associations for participation in sports of the opposite sex, as they do not fully address disparities in average muscle mass, bone characteristics, and lung capacity once puberty is underway (which is typically the case for student athletes).”
The bishops also raised concerns that undergoing various hormonal therapies to better resemble their chosen gender could be harmful for an athlete. Lupron, a chemotherapy drug that is frequently prescribed off-label as a “puberty blocker” to children seeking to change their gender, has a side effect of reducing bone density.
“The Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act would address these increasing questions in the important context of education, from primary school through college, and reestablish a fair and safe playing field for all children and young adults,” said the bishops.
“We can do better by all students, and should continue to uphold the progress made with Title IX in promoting the opportunities for women and girls.”