USWNT’s Becky Sauerbrunn Refutes Surfer Bethany Hamilton’s Claim About Transgender Athletes, ICONS Responds

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Surfer Bethany Hamilton made news this week when she announced that she will not compete in the World Surf League because of a new rule allowing biological males who identify as female to compete in the women’s division as transgender athletes.

Some athletes supported Hamilton’s position, while others did not.

USWNT Player’s Association President Becky Sauerbrunn penned an op-ed in the Springfield News-Leader refuting the idea that transgender athletes cause issues for women.

The article, titled “Let Missouri trans girls and women play,” states that “playing with or against transgender women and girls is not a threat to women’s sports.”

Becky Sauerbrunn, an Olympic gold medalist with USWNT, refutes the claim by professional surfer Bethany Hamilton that transgender athletes (biological males) shouldn't be allowed to compete against women.
Becky Sauerbrunn, an Olympic gold medalist with USWNT, refutes the claim by professional surfer Bethany Hamilton that transgender athletes (biological males) shouldn’t be allowed to compete against women. (Photo credits: Getty Images)

Women’s advocacy group talks to OutKick about Bethany Hamilton and Becky Sauerbrunn comments on transgender athletes

OutKick spoke to Valerie McClain, a former US Olympian in rowing and member of the women’s advocacy group ICONS (Independent Council on Women’s Sports).

The ICONS website states that the organization stands for “elevating and empowering female athletes.” They support “protecting safety, fairness and opportunity for girls and women.”

McClain said she agrees with Sauerbrunn that trans women should be allowed to play sports, but they should not be allowed to do so at the expense of women.

“There seems to be an idea that sex and gender are the same thing,” McClain said. “In my opinion, and in the opinion of ICONS, they are not the same thing.

“Humans are born either male or female. And you achieve, in most sports, the ability to perform at an elite level based on what those sex characteristics gave you… Men are, by the nature of sex, stronger, taller and more powerful than women.

“If you allow a male to invade the space of a group of females, that male will be dominant. And that male will displace a female. I don’t understand how Becky can say there is no threat. If one male displaces one female, that is a threat.”

Testosterone is not the only factor that differentiates male and female athletes

Currently, most sports that allow transgender women to compete against women use testosterone testing to determine whether or not the playing field is level.

However, using one hormone as the basis for fairness in men vs. women does not take into account a litany of other factors.

McClain pointed OutKick to a study done by Emma N. Hilton and Tommy R. Lundberg in Sports Medicine that states “current evidence shows the biological advantage, most notably in terms of muscle mass and strength, conferred by male puberty and thus enjoyed by most transgender women is only minimally reduced when testosterone is suppressed as per current sporting guidelines for transgender athletes.”

The paper included a graph to show just how much of an advantage the average male has over the average female in sport-specific activities.

Credit: Transgender Women in the Female Category of Sport: Perspectives on Testosterone Suppression and Performance Advantage

The chart shows that men have a minimum 10% advantage in sport-related actions and as much as a 50% advantage in some categories. Interestingly, men have a 16-22% advantage in “football kick.”

Sauerbrunn’s assertion that biological men pose no threat to women’s sport is interesting given that if men began competing for spots on the US Women’s National Team, there would be no women on the team.

OutKick reached out to USWNTPA Executive Director Becca Roux for comment on this article, but have not heard back as of publication.

Men competing against women is unfair to women

The data is clear: men have a physical advantage over women in sports. Especially boys who go through puberty.

Allowing them to compete against women simply means less women have opportunities to pursue athletics.

That’s the important point here. Allowing transgender women to compete as women is simply allowing men to compete against women. As a society, we separate sports based on sex for a reason. Most WNBA teams would lose to most good high school boys basketball teams.

This is not to say that there isn’t a place for transgender athletes to compete.

But McClain says the key is to not allow them to push women out of sports.

“Everybody should be allowed to participate in sports… But not at the expense of disenfranchising or asking women to move over.

“Put them in a category that’s either open, where anybody can be in that category or … perhaps create a category that’s for transgender or non-binary individuals,” she said.

In a society that constantly talks about “the patriarchy” and “toxic masculinity,” it makes zero sense to push women aside to protect the feelings of biological men. Yet the same people who claim the former, also support the latter.

That hypocrisy is why many people are starting to wake up to all this nonsense.

And not a moment too soon.

Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @OutkickDanZ

Written by Dan Zaksheske

Dan began his sports media career at ESPN, where he survived for nearly a decade. Once the Stockholm Syndrome cleared, he made his way to Outkick. He is secure enough in his masculinity to admit he is a cat-enthusiast with three cats, one of which is named “Brady” because his wife wishes she were married to Tom instead of him.


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