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Why Marcellus Wiley is wrong about trans athletes

President Biden’s LGBTQ executive order said a lot, but some focused on what they thought it said, but didn’t, including a TV sports host.

Premiere Of “One Night: Joshua Vs. Ruiz”
Fox Sports 1’s Marcellus Wiley: “It’s time to create a separate transgender category in competition”
Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images

“Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”

That was one phrase in the recent Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.

It shouldn’t be even remotely controversial. Instead, we get #BidenErasedWomen.

More ginned-up, farcical dystopia about transgender girls and women playing for their high school or college team leading to the “domination” of cisgender girls and women. Marcellus Wiley, the former NFL defensive end and host Fox Sports 1’s “Speak For Yourself”, seems to buy the farce. He declared on Twitter:

His tweet also included inflammatory headlines regarding the executive order and the still-pending lawsuit over the issue in Connecticut. It also included a picture of 2019 NCAA Division II National Champion in the 400-meter hurdles CeCé Telfer along with a misleading timeline of her collegiate career. A timeline complete with banal, passive-aggressive misgendering, and what many in the trans community would term “deadnaming.” I’m not displaying that part of the tweet here, but here is a link to see for yourself.

Along with the tweet were many who expressed agreement and went further with their usual falsehood tropes, and memes directed at Telfer.

Wiley commented on a later tweet, “I’m hearing that pushback. But, is that respecting all? That’s what I want to dive into.”

Let’s dive into what was actually written, which was the federal government would uphold discrimination protections and enforce them. That includes three recent Supreme Court decisions that said sex discrimination violates constitutional rights, and those rulings include transgender Americans.

Yet also consider that many of the “mean tweets” are from some of the same people who see a picture of any transgender woman playing a sport, and yell “CHEATER”. None of them, including Mr. Wiley, seem to know that the NCAA regulations on this issue have been on the books since 2011. Telfer, for example, was fully eligible to compete under those regulations as an athlete at Franklin Pierce University.

Facts. They matter.

Justice Horn was an out gay collegiate athlete who continues speaking out. He says, “Sports should be a place that is inclusive of all those who want to compete.”
(left) Photo by Kory Burdick, Courtesy of Justice Horn (right) Justice Horn

They certainly matter to people such as Justice Horn. The Kansas City-based advocate was a wrestler in college at Northern State (S.D.). In 2017, he came out to his team, and was the first openly gay multicultural NCAA wrestler.

“Marcellus Wiley’s comments continue to fuel the resentment we see against transgender athletes competing in the sports that they love,” Horn told Outsports. “As a person who comes from a family of NFL athletes, college athletes, and being a former LGBTQIA+ NCAA athlete myself, I know that sports should be a place that is inclusive of all those who want to compete. If you can play, you should be able to. It’s as simple as that.”

Since the NCAA’s policy on transgender student-athletes was instituted, nearly 4.8 million student-athletes have participated. In that time span, you can count the number of out transgender student-athletes who competed on both hands. None of those student-athletes competed at any of the “Power 5” Division I universities.

Trailblazing trans men in sports like Schuyler Bailar are too often erased from the conversation

One of those student-athletes made history in the same Ivy League Wiley once starred in. I doubt many in that Twitter thread knew about a young man at Harvard named Schuyler Bailar. The swimmer was the first transgender male athlete on an NCAA Division I team, and the first transgender student-athlete to compete at the NCAA level in his sport.

Since 2011, exactly one trans student-athlete, University of Montana distance runner June Eastwood, won an individual conference title at the Division I level. Only one trans student-athlete achieved NCAA All-American status at any level. That athlete, CeCé Telfer, was also the only trans student-athlete to win an individual NCAA national championship.

That’s a “dominant” 2 student-athletes out of 4.8 million.

Jen Fry was a former collegiate volleyball standout and coach. She consults universities and colleges on equity in athletics and notes comments such as Wiley’s “create an almost fear mongering amongst people who have not done any research on the rules organizations such as the NCAA, NAIA, and Junior Colleges have in place for trans athletes.”
(left) University of Illinois (right) jenfrytalks.com

Those facts matter to Jen Fry. As a collegiate volleyball player at NCAA Division II Montevallo University (Ala.), she was an all-Gulf South Conference performer. She coached at the collegiate level for 15 years, including a head coaching stint at Division I Norfolk State (Va.). She hung up her whistle to start a consulting firm dedicated to equity issues in athletics.

She takes the fear tactics to task. “When people hear comments of this type, which try to act as a ‘protector’ of women while excluding trans women, they should immediately put a stop to those comments,” Fry told Outsports. “Allowing comments like this further marginalizes trans women and creates cultures of fear surrounding them and puts them in more situations of harm or trauma which is not acceptable. Trans women will not be used against cisgender women as they are our sisters, friends, and family members.”

Yes. Facts matter. They matter especially to me. When you come for my community, I will speak out.

The facts matter when I see someone whom I consider a sister and heroine being demeaned. It doesn’t matter if the derision comes from a random tweet from a television commentator or the son of and advisor to a sitting President of the United States.

They matter when I see people with high-powered platforms targeting kids. I see that as a staff member for Trans Lifeline. Demonization and isolation are all too common for transgender youth in classrooms, and for some, among their families.

I wonder if any of those using their prejudice to ridicule and demean understand the systemic and societal barriers that many trans people, me included, face day-to-day. Those barriers include people in media, and in public office placing fear-mongering above facts.

Underneath all the issues, the seemingly endless hearsay, and “trans debate,” we are talking about people.

The late, great transgender activist Monica Roberts said something that I feel many people using their platform for anti-trans clickbait should think about.

She admonished that they should “cease and desist with debating our existence. Trans folks have been part of our community since the rise of modern humans and we aren’t going anywhere.”