In case your March is dedicated to following a different NCAA sport or were several Guinni into your Irish Christmas celebration last night and missed it, trans swimmer Lia Thomas of Penn won the national Women's title in the 500-yard freestyle event. Thomas' time was the best in the nation this year, and was a little over nine seconds off the record set by seven-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky.
It goes without saying that Thomas is therefore at the center of a national debate over whether biological women should compete against trans women who were born male. In a sport that barely gets any attention except at the Olympics every four years, several videos of some of Thomas' wins by huge margins have gone viral. Some Penn women's team members and opponents have spoken out about how unfair they believe it is to them, though anonymously. Though the photo of the silver and bronze medal winners posing with the swimmer who came in fourth on the medal stand probably says more than words ever could.
It's only natural that in a world like ours that's still feeling our way along on this issue and where the goal posts that determine what and what is not considered an acceptable opinion changes by the hour, that this NCAA women's swimming result would be Ground Zero in the culture war. So when the country's highest profile, most famous trans celebrity and former Vanity Fair Woman of Year Caitlyn Jenner:
… weighed in to tell Daily Mail, “I don’t think biological boys should compete in women’s sports – we have to protect women’s sports… that’s the bottom line", all hell broke loose:
To which Jenner had either the perfect response or simply doubled down on the disgraceful hate speech, depending on your point of view:
Which only escalated the online war:
It should be noted that Jenner denies ever competing in a women's golf tourney:
While also pointing out that generally speaking, Jenner has more supporters on this one than detractors. By quite a lot, it seems.
But wherever side you lean on in this debate, it strikes me as the weirdest argument in the world to go all ad hominem on Caitlyn fucking Jenner of all people on this particular subject. I mean, if there's one thing we have all had drilled into our heads about a whole host of topics over the last couple of years, isn't it to "listen to the experts"? On communicable diseases. Science. Education. The economy. War and peace. The climate. Media. Crime. Social justice. Name the controversy, and there's someone on your screen whose opinion is worth more than yours, your friend's, or that guy who posts 2,500 word op-eds on Facebook nobody reads.
Well is there a bigger expert on this narrow topic than Caitlyn Jenner? Wouldn't she be the World's Foremost Authority on being an elite athlete and going from male-to-female? When I was a kid, Bruce Jenner didn't just win Olympic gold, he did it in the sport that combines 10 different athletic competitions into one megasport. Real athletics, I might add. Not riding horses over obstacles, shooting arrows or sweeping ice in front of a big sliding rock. But running fast and jumping high and throwing things far. I choked down a ton of cereal that had him on the box despite the fact it didn't have nearly enough diabetic-inducing sweeteners in it, in hopes of being even 0.5% more like Bruce. Then 40 years later, Jenner leaned head first into the socio-political hurricane by announcing the transition into Caitlyn. And opened a lot of eyes to the whole issue, winning millions of supporters who previously didn't understand it, with the impassioned and human way she explained this is what was she truly was, and how she needed to live her life. In doing so, she laid down on the barbed wire and let a lot of other trans people crawl over her back.
So when someone with that wholly unique life speaks up on the topic of who should compete against whom, you don't have to agree with her. But by calling her "disgraceful" or "hypocrite" over an opinion based on a life experience literally no one else can say they've had, you pretty much lose any legitimacy your argument might have otherwise had.
It's a crazy idea, but how about we all do more listening to people who know what they're talking about and do a lot less attacking those with legitimate points to make. It's just crazy enough to work.
P.S. Of course I get the irony of Jenner's Tweet. I just have the sense to give it a good leaving alone.