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Is there a nationwide attack on transgender athletes in the US?

(Left to right) Iszac Henig, Lia Thomas, and Schuyler Bailar are all transgender swimmers who take HRT, hormone replacement therapy, as part of gender transition. Photo courtesy of Iszac Henig/ Wikipedia Commons

Breaking NCAA records, taking home Olympic medals and being recognized by ESPN and other high-end networks is just a few achievements transgender athletes have been accomplishing for the past few years as many have been paving their way into the sports industry and breaking down barriers for the next generation of transgender athletes.   

With this success and talent, many of these athletes have been facing hostile protests and legislation as several states and lawmakers across the country are fighting to ensure these athletes are not participating in teams that match their gender identity.  

Despite this, these athletes’ talent continues to shine; last month ESPN highlighted transgender athlete Lia Catherine Thomas as part of Woman’s History Month, bringing up heavy backlash and debate over transgender athletes in sports across the nation.  

According to the National Review, University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, a rival against Thomas considered ESPN move to highlight Thomas achievements unacceptable and offensive.   

“Lia Thomas is not brave or a courageous woman who earned a national title,” Gaines said. “Thomas is an arrogant cheat who stole a national title from hardworking, deserving woman. If (I) was a woman working at ESPN, I would just walk out.”   

Thomas’ talent in swimming helped her become the first openly transgender athlete to win an Ivy League Championship and later the NCAA Championship in the 500 free swims. Her participation sparked debate over transgender fairness in competing against cisgender females.  

Despite her participation in women’s sports receiving extensive media attention, some here in El Paso are open to the idea of transgender athletes competing in a sport with cisgender females.  

UTEP student, Sofia Camacho, believes people should be more open towards the idea of allowing transgender athletes and people should spread more kindness and support towards them.   

“I feel like people should be more open to accepting these athletes, it’s unfair that people are not treating them with kindness, and I feel like kindness is the most important thing that people should show to any person no matter what they are,” Camacho said. “People are not ready for these athletes, they just want to hate, if someone is different than them people get uncomfortable.”   

But that kindness has not been seen since lawmakers in several states have been fighting to prevent these athletes from playing and joining female sports teams.   

Recently in North Dakota, Gov. Doug Burgum signed two transgender athletes ban bills into law April 11, effectively banning transgender women from joining a female sports team from kindergarten up until college. 

Transgender athletes’ restrictions have been imposed in at least 19 other states according to Fox News. North Dakota State Senator Ryan Braunberger spoke against this bill as the lawmaker has a family member who is a transgender athlete.   

“I have talked to several of my family members that do not want to leave North Dakota because it’s their state and home, but they are feeling like they have to now, they don’t feel safe,” Braunberger said.  

As states have continued to file bills that attack transgender athletes, this discussion of allowing transgender women in sports is growing but UTEP student Nadia Rodriguez thinks this issue is something society has not figured out yet. 

“I have seen that there has been a debate over whether transgender woman should have a space in woman’s athletics, I don’t really have a concrete opinion on it, but I do think that they deserve a space in woman athletics,” Rodriguez said. “I think we just don’t know if we as a society has found out where that specific space should be.” 


Erik Acosta is a staff reporter and may be reached at [email protected] 

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About the Contributor
Erik Acosta, Web/Copy Editor
Erik Acosta is a senior at the University of Texas at El Paso majoring in multimedia journalism and minoring in theatre. Erik started working at The Prospector as staff reporter spring 2023, and now serves as the web and copy editor.
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Is there a nationwide attack on transgender athletes in the US?