Americans are “deeply divided” on the issue of transgender athletes and most Americans — and even most Democrats — believe that athletes should not “compete against others of the gender with which they identify,” according to an Axios/Momentive poll out Monday.
The poll seems to indicate a consensus among Americans that transgender athletes, most often biological males, should not compete according to the gender with which they identify if that gender is different from the biological sex they were assigned at birth. There does not appear to be a consensus, however, on who athletes who identify as transgender should compete against.
Axios notes that the poll shows a “deep” division, but overall, just 20% of respondents said that transgender athletes should be able to select which team they compete on.
“While 39% of people say transgender athletes should compete against others of the gender they were assigned at birth, 20% say they should compete against others of the gender with which they identify,” Axios reported.
In fact, although Democrats were the group most willing to allow transgender athletes to choose the gender with which they compete, the number was still low — a mere 35%. “Democrats are more likely to say that they should be allowed to compete as the gender with which they now identify,” Axios said, but quickly noted that that is only because 8% of Republicans and 18% of Independents shared that opinion.
Where Americans disagree seems to be over where transgender athletes fit in. Around 40% of respondents said transgender athletes should compete against others of their biological gender. Republicans were the most likely to favor this arrangement, with 60% of GOP members supporting. Independents were unsure. Although most believe transgender athletes should not select which gender they compete against, they were evenly divided between “biological gender” and “do not know.”
A minority of each group supported barring transgender athletes from competition altogether.
The issue is particularly fraught, given that the first transgender athletes — exclusively biologically male athletes who identify as women and will compete against other women — will appear this year in the Tokyo Olympics.
“Chelsea Wolfe, an alternate on the BMX freestyle team, will become the first trans athlete to travel to the Olympics with Team USA,” Axios noted, adding that Laurel Hubbard will be the first transgender athlete in competition, representing New Zealand in women’s weightlifting. An athlete known only as “Quinn” will be the first “non-binary” athlete at the summer games, playing for Canada’s women’s soccer team.
Hubbard is allowed to compete, the IOC and Team New Zealand noted, because Hubbard has “lived as a male” for at least two decades and has maintained specific testosterone levels for at least two years prior to international competition.
Americans are also struggling with the issue of transgender athletes on a local level. A number of states have passed rules mandating that individuals compete on teams according to their biological sex rather than their chosen gender. In a landmark ruling last week, a federal court stayed a West Virginia law barring transgender athletes from competing on the team of their choice after the law was challenged by a middle school athlete who identifies as female but was born male.
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