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Today is a day for trans girls and women in sports, too

As the country observes National Girls and Women in Sports Day, we at Outsports want to make it clear: today is for everyone who identifies as female.

Swimmer Natalie Fahey in 2019.
Swimmer Natalie Fahey in 2019.
Photo provided

My Outsports team and I stand with the Women’s Sports Federation today and every day — but especially today — as we celebrate the 35th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

“All women. All girls. All sports.” That’s their slogan, and for my money, it’s almost as good as “Courage Is Contagious.” With those three words, we have been telling the stories of trans girls and women in sports for many of our 21 years.

Stories like that of swimmer Natalie Fahey, who was a senior at Southern Illinois University in 2019. Like Mara Gomez, a trailblazing soccer player who is the first out trans competitor in the women’s division of the Argentinian Football Association. Or NCAA All-American sprinter CeCé Telfer, who last year won the 400m Division II track and field national championship. Since then she’s been fighting Covid-19 on the frontlines of a nursing home. Others include Fallon Fox, JayCee Cooper, Veronica Ivy, Caroline Layt and all the other trans rugby players we profiled last summer, and more.

What’s on tap today for girls and women:

Today the WSF is hosting an online festival, virtual congressional meetings, and empowerment opportunities featuring inspiring messages from World Rugby Hall of Famer and WSF President Phaidra Knight, young athlete and journalist Pepper Persley, and award-winning basketball analyst LaChina Robinson.

“I know from my own experience that sport provides tremendous life-long benefits — health, mastery, comradery, confidence, leadership — and having equal access and opportunity to participate is important,” said Knight in a statement. “We are proud of the heritage of National Girls & Women in Sports Day, which celebrates and advocates for all girls and women athletes, at every level.”

“All girls and women”

“All girls and women athletes,” she said. The WSF clearly gets it. Their stated mission is “to advance the lives of girls and women through sport and physical activity.” Note that this statement doesn’t include the word “biological,” or any language that would discriminate, segregate or malign anyone based on who they are.

As if that were not clear enough, the organization has a page on its site called “The Foundation Position:”

The Women’s Sports Foundation supports the right of all athletes, including transgender athletes, to participate in athletic competition that is fair, equitable and respectful to all.

“Transgender” refers to people whose gender identity (their internal sense of themselves as male or female) does not conform to traditional expectations associated with their assigned sex at birth.

Schools must be prepared to fairly accommodate these students and their families in athletics as well as other school programs.

“Let them play”

“Let them play,” said Jen, the mother of a 10-year-old girl in Arizona who loves soccer, her friends and being a girl. Oh, one more thing: Her daughter, Zoe, is transgender.

Following Zoe’s moving story by our Cyd Zeigler, Jen and her husband Mike joined trans athlete Karleigh Webb and me for a conversation that can be heard on today’s episode of the Outsports podcast, The Trans Sporter Room, later this morning.

Zoe joined the conversation, too, at one point. She told us she feels trans female student athletes should be able to play sports with cisgender girls.

“People say, ’Oh, you know they have more strength.’” she said. Zoe then addressed everyone who wants to keep trans girls like her from playing girls sports. “Transgender females, they take hormone changers and hormone blockers, so that the strength that men get in their hormones doesn’t actually happen. So it would be like, there’s no point!”

It wasn’t long ago that this 10-year-old said she herself wasn’t able to play on a team.

“I really wanted to do sports, but I couldn’t,” she said, “because if I tried it, then every single person that I was going up against or on my team would know my secret.”

The secret was that her birth certificate listed her as male. As Cyd explained in his story, one sympathetic judge and a new school later: Zoe is now able to fully live the life she feels she was meant to live, as the girl she knows she is.

“I knew that I didn’t want to be a boy, but then I was like, is that even possible to be a girl, even though you’re born a male? So then, when I found that out, I was like, even though I’m scared, I can’t just lie to my parents forever. I need to tell them. I need to be myself and I need to change now. And I don’t want kids out there to hold back from feeling that, because even if they’re scared to tell their parents because they don’t know what they’re going to think, they cannot lie to themselves.”

It’s girls like Zoe who make us hope days like today are a celebration of truth. For all girls.

Click here to read Cyd Zeigler’s full story featuring Zoe and her parents, Jen and Mike — their names have all been changed to protect their privacy.

Listen to our interview on The Trans Sporter Room podcast by clicking here. It will soon be available to download and listen at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and wherever you find Outsports podcasts!