Much has changed in three years for collegiate wrestler Mack Beggs. We remember seeing him first as a high school kid in Texas pushing through a storm of controversy at the intersection of being both an athlete and a transgender boy. Throughout 2017 and 2018, his story was the focus of numerous news stories, and he was profiled in-depth in two acclaimed documentary film projects, “Changing The Game” and “Mack Wrestles”.
Today, Beggs is a psychology major in his junior year at Life University in Georgia. In an interview this week on the Outsports podcast, The Trans Sporter Room, he discussed how he’s using his voice in the current fight over transgender rights in scholastic and collegiate sports.
“I don’t want any other kid to go through what I went through,” Beggs said. “Trans kids need this chance to be who they are, so that I why I’m here.”
Legislation that would legalize discrimination toward transgender people is on the docket in 23 states as of today. Most of the bills, like the so-called Save Women’s Sports Act in South Carolina, are measures seeking to ban transgender student-athletes from interscholastic and intercollegiate athletics. Several others would criminalize affirming health care.
The preponderance of these bills — part of an organized effort by anti-LGBTQ extremist groups to export a law banning trans student-athletes, currently on hold in Idaho — has led to a groundswell of grassroots organizing among transgender people and allies nationwide. Some of the sweat and unity paid off in one state this week: Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, stated publicly on Thursday that he would veto a bill to ban transgender girls for participating in school sports as it was currently written. “These kids,” Cox declared, “they’re just trying to stay alive.”
On Friday, a Utah state house committee rejected another pending bill that would make affirming health care subject to criminal penalties.
Recently Beggs received a phone call from Tori Gleason, an out trans healthcare professional in rural Goodland, Kan. The sports chiropractor and board member at a regional medical center joined Beggs on the podcast this week, to talk about efforts in her state to deny participation in school sports and to make hormone replacement therapy for minors a criminal offense. They talked at length about how to rally opposition to these measures and how to have those conversations with the “movable middle.”
“I’m in a town of 3,700 people so it’s hard in a rural community, but people are learning through me,” Gleason said. “I will sit down and have conversations with people. I want to meet people in the middle because I don’t have all the answers. Researchers don’t have all the answers.”
Gleason also put the scope of the fight in her state in perspective. She noted an example that out of over 100,000 Kansas high school students who participated in sports in the 2018-2019 school year, only 5 were transgender. She also points out a provision within one of the bills in Kansas which would call for gender verification. Such efforts were eliminated in elite international sport in 1999.
“It almost sounds like the 1940s with sex verification in the Olympic Games,” Gleason said. “Do you want a provider examining your daughter’s genitals to make sure she’s female enough? Is this where we are at with this?”
Similar bills are under consideration in Georgia, where Beggs attends college. One proposed bill would require that a transgender student-athlete petition for the right to play, and mandate that they provide medical information for verification by “a panel of three physicians.” These doctors, according to the bill, would “review such petitions and make recommendations to the athletic association for responding to the petition”.
This possibility runs headlong into a pet peeve of Beggs. His pictures from competing in high school have often been used erroneously by anti-trans organizations and right-wing media. To him, it’s an example of the larger ignorance of his story in particular and transgender people in general.
“People don’t the know what a trans female is or what a trans male is,” Beggs fumed. “For instance, the pictures with me in a wrestling match? People thought I was a trans female in that photo. They thought I was biologically born a male transitioning to be female. I literally had to type a whole essay on it. After people read it, they are enlightened by it because they [say] ‘I had no idea all these regulations are in place.’”
Both Beggs and Gleason quoted a line from the famous children’s book by Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears A Who! in explaining their message to both opponents and those who don’t know where they stand on the issue of transgender inclusion in sports.
“We’re here! We’re here! Exactly like in Horton Hears A Who!” said Beggs. “We’ve always been here. So, we just have to keep on having these conversations. We need to start going up to these politicians and these legislators, and say, ‘Hey! We have been here since the dawn of time.’ We are now not scared to say something. We are here and we are ready to fight.”
Listen to Beggs and Gleason talk about the issues and how to grow the resistance to these bills in The Trans Sporter Room. Like all Outsports podcasts, The Trans Sporter Room is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and wherever you find Outsports podcasts.