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Acceptance is needed in society

Lindsey Hecox

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This past weekend, I have seen a certain story mentioned more times than I am comfortable with. The news headline stated a transgender boy has won the championship title for Texas state girls’ wrestling. The part of this news that made me feel disturbed was not the story itself, but the distasteful way in which some of the members of my own small town had chosen to react to it. Mack Beggs, a 17-year-old Texas high school wrestler, sparked an enormous amount of controversy when he completed an undefeated season by winning the University Interscholastic League (UIL) girls’ wrestling state championship on Saturday, becoming the first transgender boy to hold this title.

Avid wrestling fans and casual spectators alike were quick to criticize this achievement, stating that since Beggs is a transgender boy, likely working toward transitioning to male by taking testosterone, it is not fair that he should be allowed to wrestle against girls. I would entertain this notion to say, rather, he should not be forced to compete against girls, but instead be allowed to wrestle alongside other boys, as I am sure would have been his preference as well.

The only issue with this is a technical one. Since Beggs’ birth certificate reads female, he is only allowed to compete against girls. This was not a choice made by his school, his parents or even Beggs himself, but rather a regulation imposed by the UIL, the organization in charge of public high school athletics, that closely follows the birth certificate gender rule. While Beggs recently began his transition to become physically male in October 2015, he has publicly identified as male for five years now, according to CNN reporters Faith Haleh Robinson and Nadeem Muaddi, who spoke personally with Beggs and his mother.

In another article regarding the situation, ESPN reporter Christina Karhl wrote, “Public school superintendents in Texas have voted 586-32 in a January referendum adopting a new rule requiring schools to use birth certificates to determine gender of prospective student-athletes in school sports.” Critics of the boy’s victory have stated that his use of testosterone as a part of his hormone therapy should allow him to wrestle with boys, or not at all. CNN reports that Beggs himself would prefer to wrestle other boys, but he would rather comply with the current UIL regulations than not be allowed to wrestle at all. Looking at it this way, it seems to leave the high school wrestler with a sizable dilemma that he can do little to nothing about. The truth of the matter is: if you force someone who is a boy, in all ways apart from having a stamp of approval on his birth certificate, to compete in the girls’ league, you are accepting the possible outcome that he may win. Which is exactly what happened, and people are mad about it.

According to NPR, a parent of a wrestler from another high school in Texas has even filed a lawsuit against the UIL, calling on them to ban Beggs from wrestling with the girls’ team in his final season of high school wrestling. The Associated Press also notes that the parent in question, who is also the attorney representing the case, does not believe Beggs is at fault in the circumstances, but instead blames the league and the majority of superintendents of Texas public schools responsible for creating and enforcing these regulations. Jim Baudhuin, the man who filed the lawsuit, stated, “The overwhelming sentiment here is that Mack should be allowed to wrestle, but should be required to compete against the boys.” This notion being the exact same as Beggs would likely have wanted for himself and chosen if the league allowed him to. But with an astounding 95 percent majority vote to use birth certificate gender, UIL Deputy Director Jamey Harrison, who also spoke with the Associated Press, commented, “Any rule can be reconsidered, but… given the overwhelming support for that rule, I don’t expect it to change anytime soon.”

While this may be only one instance of the representation of transgender people in our society, the unrest it has caused speaks volumes for future events. If we do not allow transgender individuals to live as their experienced gender, the one they feel is correct in their own mind, body and soul, we are choosing not to be progressive but instead to wrongly cast out a growing number of our fellow human beings. The key to living in peace among our colleagues and peers, both friends and strangers, is to develop a level of acceptance and tolerance for others who may not share our same race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. Who are we to judge the lives that are not our own? The only positive outcomes will come from those who understand this and allow each person to be their own individual, make their own choices and accept that it is not their place to decide whether it is right or wrong for another person to be who they are.

I offer my congratulations to Mack Beggs for all of his hard work and dedication. The Texas high school state champion reportedly told CNN, “It is what I am. I feel good about it. I feel happier. I feel content with myself.” In the end, that’s all that really matters.”

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Acceptance is needed in society