The picture that accompanies this essay always makes me focus. I am a black cisgender woman and an athlete. I played competitive tennis in my youth and have been a runner for decades. I have completed numerous full marathons and was by far the oldest person in my boot camp exercise class. I am a highly educated child of the Jim Crow south, from a military family, an attorney, and a civil rights movement child. How I identify is why my negative gut reaction to transgender youth participating in competitive sports shook me.
I know that the proposals to ban these young people from competition are made with the most malicious intentions. However, this issue did cause me to reach inside myself and reflect honestly about what I feel. I undeniably accept all people without regard to sexual orientation or identification. I have never had a problem here. I thought I was above this kind of discrimination, even in my thoughts. My politically correct self did not envision how I could even pause for a minute about my position on these diabolical legislative proposals. However, the girl athlete inside myself did have concerns. Internally I wondered if it was fair for young girls to compete head to head with girls who are “chromosomally” males. I grew up with a firm understanding that boys were stronger than girls, and as a result, girls could not compete head to head with boys in athletics. As a result, the idea that a person whose chromosomes have given them an athletic advantage would compete with girls concerned me.
My thoughts troubled me so much that I began a journey of research. Are my notions of gender sports superiority of males supported by science? I didn’t know. I read about gender-affirming hormone therapy and how it can help align the person’s characteristics with their gender identity. I understand that these hormones can suppress testosterone for trans girls and increase testosterone for trans boys. These treatments as a requirement to participate in sports did not help. I am anti-drug. I do not think administering drugs to young people should be a requirement to participate in sports. I read what the Olympic committee and other sports groups said about the issue. This information was not instructive. I listened to activists from the ACLU and other LGBTQIA+ communities. I studied as much as I could.
This education was worthwhile. But like many issues, it left me confused. What brought me to my senses was the picture above.
I was the only black child in a classroom for a year. I was called names, ostracized, and degraded by not only students but my teacher. My educated parents were supportive and strong and taught me to be strong and have faith, but they could not change this systematic oppression. Only time could do that. I now know that fear of change fueled this rage. Fear that some distorted way of life that some Americans were holding onto would be a loss. Fear that change meant that bad things would happen.
Despite this childhood trauma, I excelled academically. I have also accomplished much. What I do know is that I never want another child to go through what I went through. No child should feel hatred and be ostracized because they are their authentic self. I cannot understand all the emotions of a trans-child, but I do understand hate. I do understand how crippling this can be to you when you are so young. I cannot stand for this discriminatory treatment no matter what the potential cost is.
For this reason, I, like others, must get beyond my fear of change and the unknown and must advocate for these children society deems different. My God compels me to do this. Even if you are not Christian, and more importantly, if you are, you can be Christlike. We must open our hearts and be what we are intended to be, loving and accepting of all.
I ask all those that read this document to open their hearts and minds. Don’t let fear stop you from love. Let’s allow ourselves to love these children. Please don’t force them to carry the scars of hate that I do every day. We are better than this. And for my people of color that want to see racism as differing from transphobia, stop it. We are better than this.
And lastly, for those that advocate for these laws, please do not use children as a means to further a harmful and hurtful agenda. These children need your support, just as I did long ago. In 1967, almost 104 years since the emancipation proclamation, 102 years since the beginning of reconstruction, and 99 years since the passage of the 14th amendment, I had to face this brutal racial discrimination. I survived and thrived despite these societal failures. Society failed me, do not fail these children.
Sharon K. Roberson, Esq.
President & CEO