USA Today reports:
A 17-year-old transgender boy completed an undefeated season Saturday by winning a controversial Texas state girls wrestling title in an event clouded by criticism from those who believe the testosterone he’s taking as he transitions from female to male created an unfair advantage. (Feb. 26) AP
Mack Beggs is still getting used to the spotlight.
“I’m just a wrestler, not a celebrity,” he tells USA TODAY Sports.
Beggs, a 17-year old transgender boy who attends Euless Trinity High School outside of Dallas, was thrust into the national spotlight after winning the girl’s state title this past weekend, capping a 57-0 season in the 110-pound weight class.
Before the state meet, several wrestlers forfeited against him in response to a lawsuit that was filed against the University Interscholastic League, urging Texas’ high school sports governing body to suspend Beggs and claiming his medically-prescribed steroid use — which facilitates his transition of sexes — put female athletes in “imminent threat to bodily harm.”
But neither the boos nor cheers Beggs received following his victory resonated. He’s used to blocking out the noise.
“Four years ago, I was in a really bad place because I wasn’t myself,” Beggs says of experiencing gender dysphoria when he went by his birth name of Mackenzie and spent time in a mental health hospital. He even experienced suicidal ideation. “I told myself I don’t ever want to feel that way again and then started to transition (to male).
“So when I hear people who don’t understand, who have hatred, I don’t let it get to me because you can’t give up when people say you can’t do something or be who you want to be. If you let it control you, you’ll never go anywhere in life. Other people can’t feel what you feel. My message to transgender kids, to anyone who is struggling, is to ‘do you.’ ”
Yet following that advice has become tougher.
Beggs’ story comes at a crucial time for transgender rights. Last week, the Trump administration announced an end to federal protections that allowed transgender students to use facilities based on their gender identity, thus leaving states and school districts to determine their policies.
“It’s ridiculous and dangerous,” Beggs says, adding that he fears the change will lead to bullying. “Trump is leaving so many variables out. Who is going to protect these kids in school who have to watch their back every single day?”
Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old boy, and a Virginia school district that blocked him from using the boys’ bathroom have each urged the Supreme Court to decide their case, a ruling that could impact Beggs and other transgender students.
“When you have a student or an athlete trying to live their life and they’re denied to be their true selves, that is sex-based discrimination in its purest form,” says Hudson Taylor, executive director for Athlete Ally and a former All-American wrestler at Maryland. “When policies are not in place to protect transgender people, everybody loses. When you look at Mack’s story, in my eyes, everybody is losing. He can’t compete with boys like he wants to and I don’t think it’s competitively fair for those competing.
“And to satisfy the parents, they want him to not compete in the sport that has helped him get by? That’s ridiculous.”
The UIL and Texas Education Code prevent steroid use, but the code has a “safe harbor” provision that allows a student to use steroids if they are issued for a valid medical purpose. James Baudhuin, the attorney suing the UIL over Beggs’ participation in the girls’ division, has a daughter who was friends with and wrestled against Beggs.