By / May 11

One of my favorite athletes of all time is Florence Griffith-Joyner (1959–1998). Affectionately known as FloJo, she still holds the women’s world records for both the 100-meter and 200-meter open events. What made Griffith-Joyner so endearing was her combination of God-given speed and irrepressible style. Other female runners pull their hair back in order not to have any additional drag from the air as they run. 

Not FloJo: She sprinted to the front of the pack with long hair blowing in wind created by her own tremendous speed. And her fingernails were even more famous than her hair, with Griffith-Joyner sporting long nails in bright, fun colors. She was so fast and her nails were so long, it was not hard to imagine that she might just take off and fly! On and off the track, she radiated grace. And yet, as the fastest woman in the world, this American legend would be slower than the fastest male high school athletes in the United States. 

Consider these comparisons from Missouri. Florence Griffith-Joyner burned the 100 meters in 10.49 in 1988, a world record now 34 years old. But the Missouri state boys high school 100 meter record is tied between Jon Vaughn (1988) and Maurice Mitchell (2007)—both running at a blazing 10.42.1Missouri State High School Activities Association, “Championship Site Record Book – 100 Meter Dash,” https://www.mshsaa.org/Activities/ChampionshipSiteRecordBook.aspx?activity=19&gender=1 In 1988, Griffith-Joyner also set the women’s world record in 200 meters at 21:34. And yet the fastest six boys in Missouri High School history beat our beloved FloJo’s record time.2Missouri State High School Activities Association, “Championship Site Record Book – 200 Meter Dash,” https://www.mshsaa.org/Activities/ChampionshipSiteRecordBook.aspx?activity=19&gender=1&recordtype=1302&view=all

The differences that can’t be changed 

Why are these young men faster than the women’s world record holder? Because God designed men and women differently, and when we go through puberty, males develop more muscle mass and larger bone structure.3One article says,  “In boys during puberty, sex hormones may have dramatic activating effects for promoting rapid accumulation of muscle mass and the acquisition of muscle strength.” Yang Xu, et al, “Relationships of Sex Hormones With Muscle Mass and Muscle Strength in Male Adolescents at Different Stages of Puberty,” Plos One 16.12 (December 2, 2021): 2. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0260521. Nieves, et al say, “Gender-related differences in bone width are more apparent after puberty.” See Jeri W. Nieves, et al, “Males Have Larger Skeletal Size and Bone Mass Than Females, Despite Comparable Body Size,” Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 20.3 (2005): 529 For example, a man’s leg is about 80% muscle, compared with about 60% muscle in a woman’s leg.4Laura Geggel, “Why Do Men Run Faster Than Women?,” Live Science, May 27, 2017, Why Do Men Run Faster Than Women? | Live Science This means males can run faster than females. 

In light of modern demands for biological males to be allowed to compete with females in the name of trans-inclusivity, it is crucial to keep in mind that biological males who identify as females will have an unfair advantage over biological females. This advantage will continue to accrue to biological males even after taking female hormones. Someone who is born a male will continue to have larger heart size, bigger bone structure, and larger lung capacity after transitioning.

A 2021 report in Sports Medicine said the advantages in muscle mass and strength conferred by male puberty is only minimally reduced when testosterone is suppressed as per current sporting guidelines for transgender athletes.5Emma N. Hilton and Tommy R. Lundberg, “Transgender Women in the Female Category of Sport: Perspectives on Testosterone Suppression and Performance Advantage,” Sports Medicine 51 (2021): 199 – 214. In 2019, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that after one year of taking female hormones, male-to-female transgenders did lose about 5% of their muscle volume, but they generally maintained their strength levels.6Anna Wiik, et al, “Muscle Strength, Size, and Composition Following 12 Months of Gender-affirming Treatment in Transgender Individuals” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 105.3 (March 2020): e805 – e813. 

The injustice toward women

Advocates in favor of allowing males to compete with females often make veiled and confused references to “justice” as a reason for their stance, but such arguments reflect not only a denial of basic differences between males and females but incoherent understandings of justice. The formal principle of justice states, “Treat like cases alike, and different cases differently.” Ronald Nash explained this concept and said, “Injustice always exists when similar people are treated differently or when dissimilars are treated alike.” And this is exactly what happens when biological males are granted leeway to identify as females in athletic competition: Dissimilar individuals—biological males and biological females—are being treated alike,7Nash, Life’s Ultimate Questions, 359. and in so doing one person’s subjective autonomy regarding gender identity is being used in an unjust way to give a competitive advantage. 

I hope there will be many generations of young women inspired by Florence Griffith-Joyner’s amazing accomplishments. I also hope young women catch a sense of FloJo’s joy for life, realizing that life is a race to be run with excellence; our time on Earth is too short to give anything less than our best and to rejoice in the fact God let us be alive. But our culture already places many challenges in front of girls. Hollywood objectifies young women as sexual objects. Vulgar music cheapens sex. A billion-dollar porn industry distorts the entire culture’s view of women. All these things contribute to a sense of anxiety and inadequacy in many girls, feelings which emerge just as they are trying to navigate the difficulties of puberty and adolescence. 

Athletic competition divided into the categories of males and females allows girls to compete on equal footing with other girls, creating a sense of accomplishment separated from the cacophony of confused voices vying for attention. We serve our young women best when we do not place another hurdle on the track by allowing biological males to compete as biological females. 

  • 1
    Missouri State High School Activities Association, “Championship Site Record Book – 100 Meter Dash,” https://www.mshsaa.org/Activities/ChampionshipSiteRecordBook.aspx?activity=19&gender=1
  • 2
    Missouri State High School Activities Association, “Championship Site Record Book – 200 Meter Dash,” https://www.mshsaa.org/Activities/ChampionshipSiteRecordBook.aspx?activity=19&gender=1&recordtype=1302&view=all
  • 3
    One article says,  “In boys during puberty, sex hormones may have dramatic activating effects for promoting rapid accumulation of muscle mass and the acquisition of muscle strength.” Yang Xu, et al, “Relationships of Sex Hormones With Muscle Mass and Muscle Strength in Male Adolescents at Different Stages of Puberty,” Plos One 16.12 (December 2, 2021): 2. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0260521. Nieves, et al say, “Gender-related differences in bone width are more apparent after puberty.” See Jeri W. Nieves, et al, “Males Have Larger Skeletal Size and Bone Mass Than Females, Despite Comparable Body Size,” Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 20.3 (2005): 529
  • 4
    Laura Geggel, “Why Do Men Run Faster Than Women?,” Live Science, May 27, 2017, Why Do Men Run Faster Than Women? | Live Science
  • 5
    Emma N. Hilton and Tommy R. Lundberg, “Transgender Women in the Female Category of Sport: Perspectives on Testosterone Suppression and Performance Advantage,” Sports Medicine 51 (2021): 199 – 214.
  • 6
    Anna Wiik, et al, “Muscle Strength, Size, and Composition Following 12 Months of Gender-affirming Treatment in Transgender Individuals” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 105.3 (March 2020): e805 – e813.
  • 7
    Nash, Life’s Ultimate Questions, 359.
By / Feb 26

As a husband, pastor, and the father of eight children, five of whom are daughters, there are many reasons I am deeply troubled by H.R. 5, legislation ironically named the Equality Act. In this article, I want to focus on my concerns as a girl dad who loves sports.  

As a girl dad, I am concerned about the Equality Act because it will undermine female equality by negating the biological reality of sex. Erasing biological sex as a legal category will negatively affect all of us, but it will disproportionately harm women.

Women and Title IX

Under H.R. 5, vital laws protecting women from discrimination on the basis of “sex” would be upended. A person’s sex would no longer be a matter of biology, but of one’s internal sense of “gender identity.” Title IX is a portion of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, designed to ensure equal opportunities in programs and activities for biological females. The amendment is probably best known for its impact on high school and college athletics. Title IX reads,

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Of course, when Title IX was adopted, “sex” merely indicated whether a person was biologically male or female. If the legal definition of “sex” is expanded to include non-verifiable gender identities, which H.R. would do, then what is the purpose of Title IX? How can you have an anti-discrimination law in place to protect women if there is no objective way to determine who is male and female? Any attempt to enforce such regulations would be nonsensical.

Impossible standards

In athletics, a refusal to account for biological, sex-dependent differences will legally enshrine inequality in sports. In addition to being unfair, it is insulting and demeaning to females when we proceed as if biological males are the standard by which they ought to evaluate themselves. Acknowledging biological differences in athletic competition is as necessary as acknowledging differences in age.

This is not hyperbole. 

Female athletes nationwide are already experiencing the unjust effects of our cultural gender chaos. In Texas, a 17-year-old female student transitioning to male and undergoing testosterone treatments won the girl’s state championship in wrestling. Performance-enhancing drugs are banned in most sports competitions but not if allowing them accommodates the student to “transition.” In Connecticut, biological males competing as females combined to win 15 girls state outdoor or indoor championship races. And how should we respond if a male who self-identifies as a female seriously injures a female while wrestling? It is not inconceivable that such issues portend the end of public school athletics.

Even tennis champion, long-time gay rights activist, and open lesbian Martina Navratilova responded with shock and outrage when she heard about biological transgender males competing against females. She penned a February 2019 article titled, “The rules on trans athletes reward cheats and punish the innocent.”

Navratilova asserted, “It’s insane and it’s cheating. I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair.” She continued, “To put the argument at its most basic: a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organization is concerned, win everything in sight and perhaps earn a small fortune, and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies if he so desires.” Of course, she was pilloried for her common sense comments and walked them back a bit.

Level playing field

My oldest daughter has enough talent as a tennis player, competing against other girls, to earn an athletic college scholarship to an excellent school. Would that be the case if she had to compete against biological males? No. Not even close. 

Let’s be honest; legislation like the Equality Act is not about protecting people who have been unfairly excluded from participation in sports. It is about politicizing everything in our culture, including sports, in service of the sexual revolution. 

I have no plans to turn my back on the reality of biological science. Nor to accept the new sexual orthodoxy. Still, I am gutted when I think about the implications of this legislative assault on my five daughters. There are far worse ramifications of H.R. 5 than the end of female sports, but as a dad who fiercely loves his daughters and has spent a lifetime enjoying sports, I grieve the thought of that loss in particular. 

The truth is found on the opening page of Scripture. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). I cannot wait until the weather warms, to watch my daughters compete against other girls on a tennis court. The beauty of competition taking place on a level playing field brings me great joy. I plan to enjoy it as long as I can.