It seems that everybody these days has an opinion about trans athletes. And many of these opinions are not great!
Case in point: notorious cycling cheat and yellow wristband merchant Lance Armstrong. He is participating in a Fox reality series called Stars On Mars. The premise of the series is that a bunch of celebrities live together in a base camp that is set up to simulate life on Mars. It’s hosted by William Shatner.
On a recent episode, the issue of transgender athletes came up, and Armstrong was compelled to give his very bad take.
“Listen, this is real simple,” Armstrong said. “You want to transition, let’s do it. You have your own category. We’re gonna have a whole new division. We’ll celebrate you just like we celebrate everybody else. Let’s go. What’s unfair about that?”
Armstrong added, “By the way, I sound like a right-wing lunatic. I’m not. I’m the most liberal person.”
First of all, you should always be suspicious when someone begins speaking about an issue with any degree of nuance with, “This is real simple.” This is especially true if it’s a white cisgender heterosexual guy claiming to be “the most liberal person” when speaking about a historically marginalized group of people.
Secondly, Armstrong is not only oversimplifying the issue, his proposal that transgender people just compete in their “own category” in “a whole new division” is pretty insulting. After all, if trans people have to have their own separate sports divisions, then that means that a lot of transgender athletes won’t be able to play sports because there just aren’t enough trans players of any particular sport in one place to make that work. You’re essentially cutting these athletes off from participating in the sports they love in any meaningful way.
Also, by separating trans athletes out, you’re essentially saying that you do not believe that they are “real” men and women — not to mention the fact that gender queer/non-binary people don’t fit into this “real simple” scenario.
Armstrong’s comments were not welcomed by the majority of the “Mars” cast mates. Singer Tinashe said, “I think we just have to care about if you otherize people.”
Ariel Winter accused Armstrong of “ostracizing” people.
On Twitter, Armstrong posted in his defense, “Have we really come to a time and place where spirited debate is not only frowned upon, but feared? Where people’s greatest concern is being fired, shamed or canceled? As someone all too familiar with this phenomenon, I feel I’m uniquely positioned to have these conversations.”
Is this man serious? Armstrong’s claim to fame is winning the Tour de France a record seven times in a row. But then he was busted for performance enhancing drugs which he then admitted he’d used for most of his career. In other words, he’s a total fucking fraud.
He canceled and shamed himself.
So, yeah, I would say that Lance Armstrong should also STFU.
And I’m not alone in this. One of Armstrong’s co-contestants is none other than Adam Rippon, the first openly gay American man to qualify for the Winter Olympics in 2018 where he won a bronze medal.
“I’m not afraid of having difficult conversations,” Rippon told The Daily Beast. “But if we’re going to fully open that particular conversation, I want trans athletes [present], I want people who are doing research into this [to be there], and people who are real proponents of seeing women’s sports succeed. I don’t need to hear what the greatest cheater in American history has to say about what he thinks is an unfair advantage.”
A truly amazing response.
“It was so personal to me, and to my own experience,” Rippon continued. “We’d just had Pride Month. I hate to see the way that trans people are talked about, because it wasn’t too long ago that that was the way that queer people, gay people, lesbians, were talked about. And all anyone is trying to do is just live their life.”
The anti-LGBTQ+ right would have you believe that trans athletes are taking over sports — specifically women’s sports — at all levels across the country. But it just isn’t true. Nor is it true that trans athletes are super humans whom nobody can possibly defeat.
Yes, there are trans athletes. But there have ALWAYS BEEN TRANS ATHLETES. It’s just that now more and more trans people are refusing to live as if who they are is a shameful secret they must never reveal.
They are, if you will, demanding that they be allowed to live openly, live proudly and Live Strong.
D’Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ politics for nearly two decades. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.