By: Kaylisa Montijo
One Saturday morning, early in my career as a track and field athlete, it was cold enough that the officials let us keep our warm-ups on for high jump. I remember hopping from one foot from another, surrounded by about thirty other middle-school girls, trying to stay warm as I waited for my turn to jump. I was successful in clearing the bar at each height attempt until we got to four feet, eight inches. There were only a few of us left at that point, and I was thrilled to be one of them. One by one, the other girls knocked the bar over. I was the only one to successfully clear the height.
I’ll never forget the hug my coach gave me or his words of congratulations. While winning certainly felt good, track and field was so much more than merely a collection of ribbons and awards for me. It was about learning the importance of hard work and endurance, as well as building relationships with my coaches and teammates that were centered around intense, fair competition.
As I went on to high school, I experienced the joys of winning, as well as the heartbreak of losing, many times over. But, even in my defeats, I could console myself with the fact I was losing to another girl who bested me that day on an equal, level playing field.
Today, I compete in track and field at the collegiate level and it pains me to watch my fellow women athletes being unfairly beaten by biological boys who identify as female. Being beaten in matched competition is one thing, but being forced to compete on a rigged playing field to appease some notion of gender politics, not only takes the fairness out of the sport, but also denies young women the recognition they have worked so hard to achieve.
Girls should not be content with being shunted to second place in competitions designed uniquely for them. Separate categories for women were created so that we would have an equal opportunity to enjoy the thrills of competition in a manner that is safe and fair. When men invade our spaces, not only are women denied the opportunity to compete fairly, but also the performance of those men are diminished when they are no longer competing against their peers.
Biologically, men are physically stronger and faster than women, and in a strength-based sport like track and field, those differences are even more magnified. For professional men and women, there is a 10-12% gap in physical performances, with men outcompeting women tens of thousands of times on the world level. Truth is based in biology, not ideology.
It is not only the elite girls who miss out when competing against boys. Every girl, regardless of where she lands in regard to the podium, loses out. When girls are told they do not deserve the respect of competing on a fair playing field, it affects everyone on the team. It demoralizes and discourages us when we are forced to move over to make room for men in spaces that were promised to be ours alone. We are creating a culture where women are marginalized and those who seek to support them are silenced and punished.
This type of marginalization was made overt in the situation with Lia Thomas, a male swimming on the women’s team for the University of Pennsylvania. Thomas placed in several events, most notably winning the 500 yard freestyle during the 2022 NCAA Division 1 Swimming and Diving Championships. Riley Gaines, an outspoken advocate for women’s sports and a former University of Kentucky swimmer, describes how it felt to have Thomas receive a trophy that should have gone to her after they tied in the 200 yard freestyle during the same competition.
“It felt as if I had been reduced down to a photo op…everything that I had worked my entire life for was reduced to this photo opportunity to validate the feelings of a male at the expense of my own…This is not progress. How can we sit here and actually say that women losing out on opportunities, women losing spots on the podium to a male, is progress? That is quite literally the opposite.” – Riley Gaines
Lost opportunities is just one of the many problems with allowing men into women’s sports. One of my college teammates has expressed to me her concerns with the ever-growing possibility that she will be forced to compete against a biological male. “If I had to compete against a male athlete…I’d be stressed, anxious, nervous and already thinking that I’m not good enough to be competing before I even started.”
When females are made to feel as if they aren’t good enough to compete, even in their own sports, that needs to be taken seriously. Please, keep men out of women’s sports.
Kaylisa Montijo is an intern with PA Family Institute. She is a junior at Lancaster Bible College.