Frustrated California moms have resorted to group texts and encrypted messaging apps to say the unspeakable: It's not fair that boys are competing against their teenage girls.
Nearly two dozen California mothers, coaches, and activists in interviews were dismayed by the increasingly visible presence of transgender-identifying boys in girls' sports. Yet all but a few declined to speak on the record, citing concerns about loss of reputation, livelihood, or athletic dreams.
"Most are in agreement that trans kids should have their own category, but no one can say that out loud," said Keri Olson, a former UCLA tennis player who belongs to a secret chat group of Southern California women who do not want their high-school aged daughters to be forced to play sports with bigger and stronger males.
The climate of fear is striking given that Americans overwhelmingly oppose letting transgender athletes play against girls even as that is rapidly becoming the rule. According to a Gallup poll published this week, nearly 70 percent of Americans think sports participation should be determined according to biological sex. Meanwhile, a pending update of Title IX by the Biden administration would require schools to default to allowing students to play on teams according to their gender identity.
In California—the spearhead of progressive governance and gender "equity" in the United States—discontent with the status quo is boiling just out of public view. A decade after the state decreed that kids can choose their sports team and locker room based on gender identity, nearly 2 percent of California high schoolers identify as transgender, according to CDC data, and trans-identifying boys are popping up at the top of girls’ sports. Two boys beat out girls to qualify for last month’s state track championships, shortly after a trans-identifying high school boy took the girls’ ski racing title.
Olson and her fellow chat group members, most of whom are also former college athletes, see the transgender movement as a threat to the hard-won federal protections women's sports have enjoyed since Title IX banned sex-based discrimination in schools half a century ago. Olson agreed to have her name published because, she said, "if nobody speaks up, then the other side is going to prevail. We need to not be scared."
Many Californians are scared, though. One San Francisco Bay Area woman whose daughter competed against a trans-identifying boy in high school said she stopped talking about her opposition to the situation, even socially, for fear of losing a corporate salary her family relies on. Another mother, a small business owner who is involved in Bay Area activism in defense of female-only sports, worried: "If I were to publicly declare that women’s sports should be for females, all my employees would quit within a day."
Several other women who spoke anonymously to the Washington Free Beacon said their daughters do not want to play sports against boys. But, the women said, the girls are hesitant to object because they don’t want to hurt the boys’ feelings. Two other mothers said their daughters believe protest is pointless as the transgender takeover of female sports is a fait accompli—even though, as one of the mothers put it, "everyone knows it's not fair."
"McCarthyism Run Amok"
California girls know that if they complain about trans-identifying boys in their sports, "You’ll get kicked off the team, lose your scholarship," said a newly retired Southern California high school track coach who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"A lot of these girls are going to run at liberal universities," said Marshi Smith, a former NCAA swimmer who was in the pool with last year’s transgender women’s champion, Lia Thomas. "The NCAA itself has doubled down repeatedly before and since Lia Thomas’s huge international coverage. They continue to stand by their discriminatory policies and have no self-reflection in terms of changing their path as of yet."
Smith last year co-founded the Independent Council for Women’s Sports, a nonprofit group that provides a voice and a forum for female athletes and their parents who are worried about transgender competitors but afraid to be identified.
"People, even kids, recognize justice and what is fair and right. This is just not right," Smith said. "We need to get to the point where people can speak openly and freely and recognize that ‘Everyone agrees with me, everyone on the team agrees with me.’ That’s the place we have to get to in order to solve this."
One longtime girls’ track coach in Southern California said he is weighing going public with his concerns after recently seeing his athletes fall apart when they faced a trans-identifying boy. But he predicted that if he does so, he will be suspended from his job or worse.
"I’m concerned about the trans kids also, but what about my girls? Did we forget about them somewhere?" he said. "If it’s a biological boy, why are you putting them on the girls’ team when all of us know there’s this thing called testosterone, and that’s where it ends. It stops being fair. If it’s chess, it’s fair. But athletic ability–it’s not fair."
Bill Fraser was the girls' lacrosse coach at Acalanes High School in the Bay Area for 13 years until he was fired late last month. Fraser would not discuss the reason for his termination, and the school district did not respond to a request for comment. But Fraser confirmed that in an April Facebook post he expressed support for House Republicans’ proposed ban on transgender athletes and recounted his team's experience playing against a boy.
"None of our girls could stay with him …. he was easily the fastest human on the field," Fraser wrote in the post, which was made private. "Those of you who think this is proper ought to witness it with your own eyes, then return here and explain how we are not endangering all the progress made in sports, on behalf of girls/women, over the past 50 years."
Fraser likened the conversation around transgender athletes to the Red Scare of the 1950s, when an anti-communist campaign led by then-Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R., Wis.) created a national climate of fear that quashed dissent, enabled ideological excesses, and ruined lives.
"It’s McCarthyism run amok," he said. "Instead of one Joe McCarthy in this country, we have hundreds of thousands of them. Anyone in America who doesn’t understand that isn’t paying attention."
"We Are Not Insane"
Julie Lane's feminist group Women Are Real made headlines after members showed up to a high school track meet in Northern California last month to protest that a trans-identifying boy was being allowed to run against girls. Members of Women Are Real held up signs that read "Protect Female Sports" and "Speak Up 4 Girls." Security officers removed them from the event, and the boy qualified for the state championships, sparking backlash.
Lane spoke to the Free Beacon on the record, ending years of anonymity as an activist, which she said was meant to protect friendships. She said she felt compelled to come forward as a lesbian and a Democrat in response to liberal politicians and journalists' vilification of people who share her support for female-only sports.
"There is power in numbers," Lane said. "We’re not insane. People are trying to make us out to be insane, and we’re not. I don’t want to hide anymore. Hiding allows people to make assumptions."
In the end, neither trans-identifying runners who qualified for the championships showed up to the meet. California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body for high school sports in the state, condemned critics like Lane for the outcome: "The CIF strongly denounces discriminatory or harassing behaviors that impact our student-athletes’ opportunities to participate in interscholastic competitions."
The federation made no mention of two female runners who were also no-shows at the championships. One of the girls had drawn the ire of transgender advocates for making a thumbs-down motion on the podium after finishing behind a trans-identifying boy in a qualifier. The girl's school said her gesture was misinterpreted, quickly adding that it "supports and commends all of the athletes for their performances."