Girls track and field has become an increasingly common place to find trans athletes competing and succeeding. | JaySi

To many American teenagers, the month of May means the pageantry of proms and graduations. For those engaged in high school springs sports, May also means destiny and victory on the ball field, pitches and tracks from coast to coast.

One of the those events starts Thursday on the same hallowed ground where a U.S. Olympic team will be chosen a month from now. The 2024 Oregon State High School Track and Field Championships will be held at iconic Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

Among those high schoolers competing in the shadows of legends and Nike is a 10th grader from Portland named Aayden Gallagher. She’s a power sprinter with a strong stride and definitive knee lift. Her main races are the 200-meter and 400-meter, where she has had some impressive wins.

Although she’s at the top of the time charts and unofficially in the top 50 nationally, she’s not known much outside of Oregon. Yet certain people with socio political axes to grind may change that, just like they have with others like her in recent years.

You may remember some of the names: Andraya Yearwood. Terry Miller. Cece Telfer. Mack Beggs. Lia Thomas.

Gallagher is a transgender girl in a state that affirms her right to compete on a girl’s team. Oregon requires no medical or hormonal transition for trans athletes to compete in any gendered category, and the state allows nonbinary athletes to simply choose their gender category in sports, regardless of any medical interventions.

When she raced to second place at 200 meters, and won the 400 meters at a meet in April, that fact didn’t sit well with a group of Republican legislators in her state.

They promptly called on the Oregon State Activities Association, the governing body for high school sports in the state, to change their policy

The OSAA’s executive director, Peter Weber, stood up and publicly defended the policy. He met their letter with one of his own.

“Oregon law has long prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” the letter states. “In 2019, the Oregon Department of Education amended its rules that ‘sexual orientation’ was defined to include ‘gender identity.’ The Oregon legislature likewise amended the definition of ‘sexual orientation’ to include ‘gender identity.'”

In response, there is a call to put forth legislation that would ban transgender girls and strip any achievements they may have earned.

True to form, the anti-trans lobby pushing a lawsuit against the NCAA made this their latest outrage with right-wing media outlets boosting the signal. One such outlet showed a video of Gallagher winning an event with headlines screaming about “DOMINATION” during a generally slower preliminary heat.

In the final of that event, Gallagher fought to a narrow win.

The mainstream outlets nationally haven’t picked up this media dynamic.

In the local coverage there seems to be an aversion to saying “transgender girl.” One anchor, Matt Templeman of Eugene’s KEZI-TV, referred to Gallagher as “A male student who competed against girls” and in a different report as a “biological male.”

Such doesn’t surprise Dr. Juniper Simonis. They are based in Portland and understand the science of the issue, with a PhD in biology. They also know the sports side as a four-time world champion roller derby athlete.

Simonis is also trans and concerned that some of the darker anti-trans elements may come to the light.

“This fight against trans athletes is going on even in places like Oregon,” Simonis noted. “It’s not just about athletes. There are bills introduced here every year. The prevalence of these bills making to a floor vote is scary, and Oregon is in that boat.”

“As good as it is as a state, there a lot of vocal bad people when it comes to trans acceptance,” they continued. “I fear a bit that this state meet is going to be a focal point for that.”

Terry Miller (left) and Andraya Yearwood (right) faced the same crucible Aayden Gallagher may face this weekend as high school athletes in Connecticut | Changing The game

Some in the stands will be boo birds against Gallagher the same way some were against Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller at a track in Connecticut. The echoes of the barbs toward Mack Beggs in a Texas arena weren’t so long ago. Don’t believe me? Find a copy of Changing The Game and watch.

It’s only been two years since professional transphobes from two countries flew to a college swim meet where their only objective was harassing Lia Thomas. It was just three weeks since West Virginia’s attorney general publicly equated a 13-year-old transgender girl with a “hulking male in the locker rooms”.

My hope for this week is that those kind of people stay silent. Yes, it’s a fool hope.

A more likely thing? That people of good will who respect sportsmanship and inclusion speak out.

“I believe there will be plenty of vocal supporters of this young athlete and I hope they are really vocal in person,” Simonis said. “For me, the way I made it through moments like that was the support of my teammates and my community. Anybody who is able to actually cheer needs to bring their cheering A-Game.”

My hope for Aayden Gallagher? That she can block out the noise, get out of the blocks, do her best and enjoy performing on a special, and legendary, stage in her sport.