The Unz Review • An Alternative Media Selection$
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewTed Rall Archive
Transgender People Shouldn't Compete in Sports. Neither Should Cisgender People
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information


Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • B
Show CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Thanks, LOL, or Troll with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used three times during any eight hour period.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

A new Washington Post poll about Americans’ views of transgender athletes offers a lot to think about. I found the margins more interesting than the headline. Like, who are these 2% of people who think that transgender girls are at a physical disadvantage when they compete against cisgender girls in youth sports? Why would they think that?

Another takeaway is that 16% of respondents have a close friend or family member who is transgender. One in six! As a writer and cartoonist who works from home — but in New York City, the most diverse city in the country — clearly, I need to get out and meet more people. Last week, a Pew poll found that about 1% of Americans are nonbinary, a figure that rises to 3% for people ages 18 to 29. I know hundreds of people, including lots of Millennials. How come I don’t know anyone nonbinary in a country with 3.3 million of them?

But what I’ve been thinking about most is an issue that is so baked into our society that it is no issue at all: the idea that competition is a good thing.

Most respondents to the Post survey oppose allowing trans women to participate against cis women in competitive sports at any level. Yet a majority are also concerned that the mental health of transgender athletes might suffer as a result of such a ban — meaning that, even among some of those who view such competition as unfair, some worry that trans women athletes denied the opportunity to compete against other women in sports will suffer psychological damage.

It’s an intractable issue. As transgender athletes have argued, segregation by gender in sports is in and of itself arbitrary, since some cis women have inherent biological advantages over some cis men. Any attempt to make physical competition fairer, as with weight classes in boxing and wrestling, is inherently arbitrary. Where does it stop? Shall we have separate basketball leagues based on the players’ heights? Should the 152-to-164-pound weight class be split up more finely? Down to the ounce?

There is little political appetite for allowing everyone to compete against one another regardless of sex or gender, and for obvious reasons: In most sports, people who are born male have bigger and stronger bodies, and hormonal advantages, on average than those born female. Eliminating the gender divide would effectively downgrade half the human race to intramural athletes, with no chance to win anything more than the joy and satisfaction of participating.

But then, what’s so great about competition? Personally, this cis male has always found competition of all kinds — in sports, at work, in the arts — to be toxic.

I attended elementary school in the mid-1970s, when soccer was first gaining a foothold in the United States. In my Ohio town it started out as exclusively intramural. I signed up and loved it. (It’s not relevant here, but I was pretty good.) Then they converted the intramural league to the competitive teams we have today. Coaches, and then players, got serious about winning. They turned mean. Grown men ordered us kids to target the best player on rival teams and injure them so that they couldn’t play. It wasn’t fun anymore, so I quit.

Competition ruined every sport I tried: track, wrestling, baseball. Winning was the only thing that mattered. My teammates quickly took to trash-talking batters; I found the practice foul. To me, play is not something that you do at the expense of other people. I’m not alone: Survey data shows that 70% of kids drop out of organized sports by age 13.

Studies show that competition causes depression, anxiety and self-harm. And no wonder! Competition turns everyone but the winner into losers. The practice of my professors at Columbia University School of Engineering, who graded on a curve, illustrated the absurdity of America’s winner-take-all culture. No matter how brilliant the students in a class, half of us would receive an “F.” Objectively, of course, we were all superb at math and science and we all worked hard; we wouldn’t have been admitted otherwise. Objectively, we all should have gotten “As.” Instead, CU set up a system where they took thousands of students who were by far the best in their high schools and turned three-quarters of them, me included, into expelled losers, unemployed with thousands of dollars in student loans.

Because of competitive grading, 49% of students feel a great deal of stress on a daily basis. Educators should consider following the example of Hampshire College, which does not issue letter grades.

If you have held a job, you know how dispiriting workplace competition can be. Brown-nosers prevail over those who work harder. Intelligent workers get passed over in favor of those who don’t threaten their colleagues with difficult questions. Unfair promotions piss people off. Workers are more likely to quit a job after a colleague gets promoted than one in which no one gets promoted.

Competition in the arts is silly and destructive. What makes a song or a sculpture or a cartoon “better” than another one? It’s purely a matter of subjective taste. Who receives the Oscar or the Tony or the Nobel Prize usually has far more to do with contemporary politics and the composition of the prize jury than the quality of the work.

Columbia University, which administers the Pulitzer Prize, has decided to abolish the editorial cartooning section in favor of a broad illustrated commentary category that also includes comics journalism, comic strips, graphic novels, magazine illustrations, you name it. Effectively, they have reduced an editorial cartoonist’s chance of winning a Pulitzer from slim to none, which is bad for a nearly extinct profession, which is why I added my name to a petition letter opposing it.


In a way, though, they’ve done us a favor. With few exceptions, each year’s announcement of the winners and finalists has been followed by a flurry of phone calls between the 99% of us who lost. We disagree with the choice of the winner. We bemoan the great work that’s been snubbed. We wonder what the hell happened in the room where it happened; what were the jurors thinking and why are their deliberations unaccountable? Most of all, we wonder what we could have done, if anything — spoiler, probably nothing — to have won ourselves? Even the winner is a loser, for they know that few others are happy about their victory. I’ve been at this for more than a quarter of a century, and I can’t remember any winner being greeted by anything close to universal acclaim by his or her colleagues.

If you can’t win, you can’t lose.

Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of a new graphic novel about a journalist gone bad, “The Stringer.”

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Sports, Transgenderism 
Hide 19 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
  1. What if the Pulitzer Prize board abolished all the annual awards and gave awards
    only for lifetime achievement? It’s much easier for hucksters to fool people for one,
    two, or three years than for twenty years or more. Time removes the one element,
    novelty, which can cloud our judgment as to the true creative worth of artworks,
    which are like fruit trees: some years you get a bountiful crop with many branches
    sagging under the weight of numerous fruits, and other years you get only a few
    withered fruits not worth harvesting, and we still don’t know all the factors which
    cause fruit trees to produce bountiful crops one year and sparse crops the next year.
    I’ve always thought it was ridiculous that only one editorial cartoon out of all the
    many editorial cartoons published in the same year that seemed just as good to
    impartial observers should be deemed to be “The Best Editorial Cartoon of the
    Year.” Abolish all annual awards now and give prizes only for lifetime achievement!

  2. Altai says:

    Another takeaway is that 16% of respondents have a close friend or family member who is transgender. One in six! As a writer and cartoonist who works from home — but in New York City, the most diverse city in the country — clearly, I need to get out and meet more people. Last week, a Pew poll found that about 1% of Americans are nonbinary, a figure that rises to 3% for people ages 18 to 29. I know hundreds of people, including lots of Millennials. How come I don’t know anyone nonbinary in a country with 3.3 million of them?

    You don’t notice them because most transgenders are young girls with BPD. And NBs (Sometimes known called by themselves as Enbies) as Non-Binaries are the most potentially poseurish. Imagine all the girls who call themselves ‘bisexual’ but who never go out with girls.

    This is the big shift and it’s situated much younger among Gen Z, so unless you’re spending an unhealthy amount of time among 13-19 year olds when they’re in school, you won’t see them so much. You also might not notice due to both the fact that transition from female to male being more convincing due to the effects of testosterone being additive or because when it doesn’t do such a good job they just kind of look like girls with quirky fashion sense since it’s not so socially transgressive for a women to wear male style clothing. (And a lot of them who do choose a weird style of male clothes no actual man would wear, making them seem more feminine)

    This pattern, seen at the main Tavistock clinic in the UK shows up exactly the same all over the Western world. ‘Trans’ means teenage girls now, they will actually make up the bulk.

    You can watch the endless parade of human tragedy here.


  3. BuelahMan says:

    But then, what’s so great about competition? Personally, this cis male has always found competition of all kinds — in sports, at work, in the arts — to be toxic.

    And it may be the reason why your writing has never really gotten any better in all the years you push this garbage.

    • Agree: Legba
    • LOL: Patrick Gibbs
  4. There is no such thing as “transgender” people. The term itself is a hoax.

    • Agree: Adam Smith
  5. bro3886 says:

    Almost a parody article on leftist cloud-cuckoo-land, participation trophy “thinking.”

    • Replies: @Patrick Gibbs
  6. Cris M. says:

    – there’s those words again. It’s been bugging more and more lately the ‘trans gender’ stuff. You can’t change chromosomes, also no such thing as ‘intersex’ or other nonsense. People can take hormones to look different but doesn’t change underneath. Other thing, gender should be j not g, If it was jender it looks neutral, makes no dif talking about male or female, though then they made up ‘trans gender’, which the g makes it look ‘nice’, when people could also be predators. Male and female are separate labels, but ‘trans gender’ is only one, a bit too convenient has a femy angle when anyone appearing opposite whether male or female would bend toward male tendency, not female, regardless of appearance.

    Had said before in another comment the cons label others to use whole groups such as homos, claiming to speak for all of them, which is false, same with people who want to look opposite. If someone wants to look opposite, don’t really care as long it isn’t a supremacist thing, but that’s where this has gone, or if its a cover for power, men posing as female, if someone were say a judge, for instance in a sports thing, that should be something to know, because they could favor their own, but we wouldn’t know. Not all of them have green hair or look obvious, some are less obvious, blend in. Also, the ‘cis gender’ thing, what’s that, ‘siz jender’. We already have male/female, why make up ‘siz jender’, ugly word.

    People are sitting for a lot of false framing. Need to make own labels, if someone appeared opposite and was a predator then transvestite would be more accurate, or if its a person who appears opposite but isn’t doing as some sort of power, maybe wanrev, for want to appear reversed, basic ok label. Whatever, need to use different labels for different people, because not all are the same. We can make our own labels, share among ourselves where we live, that’s how to overcome media anyway. Wanted to comment on main point of article and may later, this subject distracts. Need some breakfast.

  7. Slide says:

    There was a phrase that went around some years ago, learned helplessness. The wide list of things in the piece sort of form that. The supposed awards type things mentioned, have always been propaganda to me, sort of in the same vein as supposed polls, which aren’t actually to inform, but to steer people, by inferring -others think a certain way. Would agree organized sports isn’t a good thing, though people should get out more and take a walk. A little physical exercise is good for the mind.

  8. ruralguy says:

    Good point about the college weeder courses. The practice seems universal. Almost 50 years ago, my college of Science and Engineering used two semesters of Physics as weeder courses, as well as the Calculus sequence. On the first lecture day, the Physics Professor said to several hundred students: “50% of you will fail this course.” He did fail 50%. The next semester, the same thing happened. The college forced out 75% of the students, through Physics alone. The practice seemed unusually cruel and unnecessary. Unnecessary, because the college had chosen the top 10% of students in the application process, so those admitted could easily handle the course work. Cruel, because it created a huge stress on the students. I survived it. But, I was surprised to see the same weeding happening to my children. They too have survived it, but not their friends. It was sad hearing heartbreaking stories of these joyful kids being forced out. All of their dreams were shot down in a very cruel process.

  9. PJ London says:

    “Oh how the losers whine.”
    This has got to be the dumbest rant ever. I want to play tennis, do I go to a court and play anyone who turns up? Federer may not find me much of an opponent and why would I bother to play against a 6 year old in a wheel chair? I played hockey (field) and in a reasonable league, the semi-pros beat us 30 nil and we have no ‘fun’ fetching the ball from the net, but the lower leagues provide no enjoyment when we beat them 20 nil.
    Approximately 200,000 new books get published every year, I am supposed to read them all or choose the authors I enjoy and those which come recommended by people I trust?
    If I advertise for an employee and get 10,000 replies do I have to take them all? Only the first?
    I reads Unz because it has (had) incredibly good articles. Unfortunately many of the writers no longer publish on Unz; Dinh, Hopkins, Reed at al. but Unz is only one of 100,000 websites, am I supposed to visit them all.
    The ranking of ability and preferences is what allows us to handle the complexity of life.
    The only people who rail against achievement are those who never had one.

  10. @bro3886

    But mommy said I was special! Teacher said I was smart! I’m a handsome boy!

    How is it even possible that a grown man published this without dying of embarrassment?

  11. Notsofast says:

    the simple solution would be to give the rainbow crowd their own olympics/league. an open division where anything goes and anyone can compete, all 247 genders, dog people and their handlers, furries, bronies, unicorns, gimps etc. i’m seeing a blend of the special olympics, an akc show and a good old fashion circus freak show. now that’s entertainment, ppv would be huge.

  12. tyrone says:

    If you can’t win, you can’t lose.

    …..poor Ted ,was elementary school rough……no , really ,I understand .

  13. SafeNow says:

    Back a zillion years ago, swim practice was limited to one hour in the pool. That was in high school, and in college (which was not NCAA). I’m pretty sure the practice length of the other teams were about the same. I was happy with this; I had other things to do. And an hour seemed about right anyway. If I had spent three hours in the pool, the improvement at the margin would have been minimal. I was what I was. It would have been drudgery. I think most parents today would want it this way. And most athletes would also, although many would never admit it.

  14. Cris M. says:

    Well aside of what I posted before, the main part of article on competing, have come to view most things people see as ‘normal’ as a setup of distraction from what matters, and division in some way, though on competing, only had personal sense of something negative, over-focus on ‘winner’ etc so tended toward individual sports, skiing etc.

    In looking at it more, myself put it together as yet more of scheme of those who direct us down, to stay in their false frame. Their govermnt, states, courts, police, keep people ‘watching’ instead of doing, then when someone tries to defend or go against their schemes, alone, are defeated because we don’t gang with others, for ideas or energy, mutual support. Even just a few friends with same ideals can make an energy difference. They in the systems are gangs, which could be a thing also, they keep us competing against each other -so we don’t focus on them. Hmm. In any event the part in article Ted noticing the difference of doing some soccer then having it turn to more negative division, instead of fun exercise, have same memory.

    This much everyone knows, ignoring situations lets others grab power. It’s obvious people need to change focuses, though beside knowing situations are wrong, some miss what to look at to change, in ourselves or others, so we are better able. The article point on competing is something hadn’t considered before, just in a basic way. Interesting perspective.


  15. The one form of competition from which it is difficult to exclude onself is competition for a mate and begetting of descendants. You will die and the only way you will leave descendants is by convincing some member of the opposite sex to choose you as a partner instead of someone else. If you choose not to have descendants you are a genetic dead end.

  16. Ted is our token lib here, so give him a break!

    I think there is some definite truth to the idea that too much competition can suck the joy out of a pastime. Maybe that’s why, though electronics was my hobby as a youth, as soon as I had enough money saved, I quit the engineering field.

    Isn’t it interesting that American business has been going on and on about the pursuit of excellence over these last decades… as the nation has declined.

    By the way, I never heard of a school which required instructors to fail half of the class. Was that really a thing? In my experience over nearly 20 years of US and European schooling, when an instructor was grading on a curve, that meant that students’ grades were raised, not lowered.

    I hope the obnoxious term cis-gender never becomes accepted by real people.

    • Replies: @Wyatt
  17. Mac_ says:

    Contest type things always seemed conjured, with the Obama and nobel prize thing it should have been the end of delusion about supposed institutions or winners.

  18. Wyatt says:

    Ted has the bad habit of capitalizing the tard in libtard.

  19. Wokechoke says:

    certainly baseball should be just a bit of fun.

Current Commenter

Leave a Reply -

 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments have been licensed to The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Commenting Disabled While in Translation Mode
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Ted Rall Comments via RSS
The Shaping Event of Our Modern World
Becker update V1.3.2