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Guest Opinions

I’m a female student athlete in Idaho. Please protect women’s sports from transgender athletes

I was 3 when I kicked my first soccer ball — a baby step in an athletic journey full of hard, rewarding work. Through soccer, I learned to love sports. But in 6th grade, I found my athletic niche as a runner. I fell in love with cross-country and haven’t stopped competing since.

Today, I’m a rising sophomore at Idaho State University in Pocatello, where I compete in women’s cross-country and track. Running is my happy place. I love pushing my body to its limits, exploring the great outdoors on foot, and training with women who have become my closest friends.

Madison Kenyon

During the fall 2019 cross-country season, I was told we’d be competing against a male who identifies as female. This biological male had competed on the male cross-country team for three years before identifying under a female name. In the men’s division, the athlete had recorded times in several events faster than the college women’s national record.

The stats were discouraging. But the stats got personal when I raced in the 3-mile, 5k, and 6k events. In all three, this athlete beat me by a significant margin, bumping me down to a lower placement than I would have notched had I only competed against other women. That might not seem like a big deal, but any athlete knows that placements matter.

I take pride in earning my placements fairly and squarely. When it came to the indoor track conference championships, the biological male athlete snagged the gold medal and bumped my teammate into fourth place and off the podium. I was heartbroken. What was happening here?

Then I learned that the Idaho Legislature was considering HB 500, the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. I don’t usually pay attention to state politics, but this bill had real-life implications for my athletic career — and possibly for the entire future of women’s sports. The bill focused on something I was passionate about and had a direct impact on me.

I read the bill to understand how it would impact my athletic career and others. I already knew how it feels to compete against — and lose to — a male athlete in women’s sports. Other girls and women, I learned, were facing the same problem. I became convinced that HB 500 is necessary to protect athletic opportunities for girls and women.

Allowing males to enter women’s sports eliminates the connection between an athlete’s effort and her success. That’s a key reason athletes love to compete. Sex separation in sports helps ensure that males and females both enjoy opportunities for fair competition and victory. It helps guarantee that, when women like me work hard, we have a shot at winning. It protects opportunities for success in women’s sports. That’s why I support HB 500.

It’s also why I am asking, through my Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys, to join a lawsuit so that I can help defend Idaho’s law. To my knowledge, the biological male I competed against has graduated. But I’ve now learned that another biological male is fighting the law and wants to compete on the women’s team at a university that I occasionally compete against.

I’d rather not need to be part of a lawsuit. But, under the NCAA’s current rules, I’m concerned that we will soon effectively have men’s sports and co-ed sports — without any dedicated category for females only.

I’m a biology major. Scientifically, the differences between male and female aren’t a matter of personal opinion or features that can be changed. I’m female, not because I identify as female, but because every nucleated cell in my body is genetically marked female, and my entire body developed in alignment with those female markers.

You don’t need to be a biology major to understand that males and females are different in essential ways. It’s obvious in the sports world. Most males are bigger, faster and stronger than females; the rules of my sport implicitly acknowledge this. That’s why, for example, men’s cross-country races are often longer than women’s cross-country races.

Sports was the air I breathed growing up; it’s the air I breathe now. I want my future daughters and other young girls to be able to have the same experiences and opportunities I’ve enjoyed. I want my teammates’ and my own hard work to pay off. I’m not competing for a participation trophy. I’m competing to be the best…to medal…to win.

Everyone should be able to compete, but it must be done fairly — without sacrificing women’s opportunities.

Madison Kenyon is a sophomore athlete at Idaho State University who is seeking to intervene in defense of Idaho’s Fairness for Women in Sports Act being challenged in Hecox v. Little.
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