Mary Szoch is Director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Washington Examiner on January 18, 2022.
As a former Division I women’s basketball player, I am no stranger to playing against men. My high school team wanted to win a state championship, so we trained against boys. In college, I wanted to walk on at Notre Dame, so I practiced against men. After three years of watching from the stands, I made the team. Once on the team, our coach, Muffet McGraw, wanted to win a national championship, so we played against “the practice squad.”
The practice squad was a group of good male intramural basketball players. Although they did not have the advantages of strength and conditioning coaching, nutritional assistance, film review, and rehabilitation training, each day, these men competed at practice to make our team better.
And they did. Because they drove the ball more aggressively, boxed out harder, and reacted to plays more quickly, we learned to do likewise. Most days, the drills and scrimmages were competitive. Some days, the practice squad would trounce our team. Rarely, we won. The biological advantages of our male practice squad made opponents such as Maya Moore and Brittany Griner seem like average athletes.
On our way to competing in the national championship game, seven or eight unsung heroes stood in the stands and cheered as we sailed past teams whose plays they had executed perfectly in practice.
Since I was not in the regular rotation, I often had a front-row seat to the differences between the practice squad and our starting five — five of the best female athletes in the country.
The day our All-American center took a charge on the practice squad’s “big man,” the whole team prayed she would stand up. When a newcomer to the squad stole the ball, went full court, and dunked it, we all rolled our eyes, knowing he did not understand his role of impersonating a star female athlete. When the practice squad’s point guard decided not to go as hard on a play because he felt bad that each time he scored, we ran — everyone silently thanked God.
Men have a distinct advantage in sports. This is not to say that all men are better than all women. In fact, my college teammates would beat most men in a game of one-on-one. Still, at comparable levels (starting five Division I vs. starting five Division I) — men are better.
Height, strength, and speed are chief determinants of a person’s athletic ability. Typically, because of their biological makeup, men are taller, stronger, and quicker than women. This is a fact.
Several months ago, I wrote an article arguing that if the Equal Rights Amendment were ratified and sex distinctions subsequently eliminated, women would win fewer medals, set fewer records, and play for fewer national championships. Even without the problematic ERA, women are still being relegated to vying for silver.
University of Pennsylvania’s Lia Thomas, a biological male who until 2019 was an average men’s team swimmer, has dominated this year’s swim season, destroying multiple women’s records. Most recently, Thomas won the 200- and 500-yard freestyle at the Ivy League championships but came in second in the 100-yard freestyle to Yale’s Iszac Henig, a biological female who had top surgery (a mastectomy) and identifies as male. Notably, the 100-yard freestyle wasnot one of Thomas’ events when competing in the men’s Ivy League championships in 2019.
Thomas’ presence on the women’s podium this year meant more than resigning female swimmers to competing for second. It meant that one woman did not compete at all.
Ten years ago, that woman would have been me. I sat in the very last seat on the bench. Had one member of the practice squad claimed he was a woman, I would have never put on a jersey.
When a biological man plays a woman’s sport, at least one woman loses every single time. The girl who comes in second to the biological male matters, and so does the girl who would have sat on the bench but instead watches from the stands.
I lived the fairy-tale of my team dancing our way to the national championship game. A man should not be able to take that fairy-tale away — even from the girl at the end of the bench.