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It sounds like a skit from The Carol Burnett Show. A man sporting long hair enters a women’s weightlifting competition and handily wins, besting all his female competitors.
The mock scene is funny. The real one is not.
The scenario troubles Minnesota powerlifter Beth Stelzer. And it’s why she started Save Women’s Sports, a nonpartisan organization advocating for the preservation of biology-based standards for female sports competitions. Not only in powerlifting but in women’s sports throughout the world, women are increasingly finding themselves competing against biological males.
In February, chanting protesters led by JayCee Cooper, a male powerlifter who identifies as female, interrupted the USA Powerlifting Minnesota Women’s State Championship. The raucous protesters demanded that self-identified “transgender females” like Cooper be able to “share the platform” to compete against women.
They created such a disruption that when 34-year-old competitor Stelzer went home and processed what had just happened, she decided to take action. Several weeks earlier, Cooper had obliterated the competition in the United States Powerlifting Association Minnesota women’s championship by lifting 150 pounds more than the woman who would have won.
Save Women’s Sports counts as allies conservative and liberal groups as diverse as Concerned Women for America, the Heritage Foundation, Family Research Council, Alliance Defending Freedom, Women’s Liberation Front, and Feminist Current. It also rallies parent coalitions and individuals.
The Save Women’s Sports website highlights obvious biological differences between the sexes, underscoring male competitive advantage. Even if males who compete as females reduce their testosterone levels, studies show testosterone production during puberty gives males long-term advantages, including greater skeletal size and muscle mass, less fat, and larger heart and lungs.
Even with testosterone suppression, most men can’t reduce levels comparable to females, or keep them in that range, according to the medical journal Endocrine Practice.
Stelzer says biological males are competing as females in swimming, wrestling, track and field, cycling, soccer, softball, powerlifting, and other sports, robbing females of opportunities, medals, scholarships, records, sponsorships, and even participation. “I never would’ve started powerlifting if I’d known I’d have to compete against males,” she told me.
She warns that if Congress passes the Equality Act or if the Supreme Court redefines “sex,” those decisions would destroy Title IX, part of the landmark Education Amendments of 1972 that ensured females equal opportunities in athletics.
“If we allow biological males to compete in women’s sports, there will be men’s sports, there will be coed sports, but there will be no women’s sports,” Stelzer says. She urges parents of younger athletes to find out their school’s policies, inform like-minded parents, talk with school board members about concerns, and insist males shouldn’t compete against females or use the same restrooms.
Emily Zinos of Minnesota Family Council says Minnesota’s gender inclusion policy allows a high-school boy to complete a one-page form saying he’s a girl. He can then play on girls’ teams. Because of supposed gender fluidity, the child can change sexual identity at any time. Schools don’t tell parents about gender changes unless parents ask, and schools decide whether opposite sexes can use the same locker room and shower facilities.
So far, the USA Powerlifting and 100% RAW Powerlifting Federation are the only sports organizations Stelzer knows of that restrict biological males from competing as females.
For speaking out, Stelzer has received death threats and harassment. She says that’s why girls and women are often afraid to address the issue publicly: “Transgender activists have invaded women’s social media. … They’ll put your name and private information online, call your employers. They’re ruthless.”
Still, Stelzer is concerned that if people don’t speak up, females will be injured competing against males in contact sports.
“I’m just a small-town mom and housewife who cares,” Stelzer says. “Biology matters. This isn’t bigotry.”