With anti-trans legislation on the docket in Texas, trans wrestler and now-MMA competitor Mack Beggs said he needed to fly back home and join the fight.
“I’m just glad I could make it here,” Beggs said Monday at the Texas State House. “It’s been a long time waiting now. I’ve been waiting for this moment since I was 17, 18 years old.”
The 24-year-old Beggs is best known for the headlines and controversy surrounding him as a high school wrestler at Euless Trinity. Due to regulations of the University Interscholastic League (UIL), he was forced to wrestle in the girls division through state championship runs in 2017 and 2018. The rules mandated that a student-athlete’s gender is determined by their birth certificate.
In testimony to the Texas House Higher Education Committee on a proposed ban on transgender participation in college athletics, Beggs chided legislators who already passed a similar law at the scholastic level.
“This bill is unfathomable. It’s shameful and it’s constitutional,” he said. “For you to try to take sports away from transgender students from college after you already harmed them K-12 is being cruel for cruelty’s sake.”
Beggs also noted that when he competed in high school, having started hormone replacement therapy as a high school freshman, he was prohibited from competing against boys, and his medical transition was regulated by the UIL as well.
“In order for me to compete in UIL, I had to stay within a cis women’s levels,” Beggs said. “There are rules already in place for me to make sure I upheld being fair with my competitors.
“These bills don’t help competition. They hurt it. My college wrestling was governed by the NAIA and USA Wrestling. There is no room and need for this type of legislation to interfere in college sports.”
Senate Bill 15 would extend the policy of the UIL to the state’s public colleges and universities. It says a student-athlete must compete on the team that corresponds with their original birth certificate.
The stipulation would amount to an administrative ban on transgender college athletes, just as it does to youth athletes in middle school and high school.
The bill’s co-author and one of the most consistently anti-LGBTQ voices in the Texas Legislature, Republican State Rep. Valoree Swanson, sees the proposed law as essential.
“This is about taking a principled stand for Texas women and ensuring that not a single woman loses a scholarship, a roster spot or a second of playing time to a biological male,” she said in committee testimony.
Swanson has been supported by conservative anti-LGBTQ lobby groups and figures, such as former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines. Lawmakers in opposition noted potential conflicts between the legislation and the regulations of both the NCAA and NAIA, which have regulations that largely affirm transgender student-athletes competing alongside the gender by which they identify.
Opposition testimony came largely from trans people and allies in-state, including a number of former high school athletes who shared Beggs’ experiences.
Beggs, when asked about the potential harms of the legislation, noted how the debate has negatively influenced public perceptions toward trans people.
“When I went to college, I was harmed because no one would talk to me,” he said. “There were individuals who would purposely injure me, because they didn’t agree with who I was.
“When I stood up to my coaches, when I stood up to those people they never address me again. I just want to give that power back to these kids, because they deserve it. They deserve to be themselves.”