Although I played Little League baseball on an all-boys team, no one would have expected me to continue playing with men through my career. Instead, I was relegated to softball. The problem does not necessarily lie with not being allowed to “play with the boys.” Rather, the issue is with segregation itself.
The NCAA, through Title IX law, forces its universities’ athletics programs to allocate equal funds to both men’s and women’s sports. Although equality is undoubtedly a good thing, the “separate but equal” ideology enables discrimination.
The idea that sports should be segregated is a sentiment that is treated as fact despite being an arbitrary feature of the sports world we’ve created.
Having men and women play in different sports leagues is done to guarantee fairness because men are generally considered to be stronger, faster and taller than women, so women need their own leagues to compete against equal competition.
Indeed, the integrity of sport is based on an even playing field. However, attempting to divide human beings into two distinct boxes fails because humanity is more complex and chaotic than any category could give it credit for.
The sports world assumes that male and female are as easy to understand as wins and losses. Unfortunately, this classification ignores the fluidity of human biology. Medical science, through the existence of intersex individuals, acknowledges the anatomical and chromosomal variations that exist in human nature. Instead of a simple, two-sex system, sex can be thought of as a spectrum.
This is not to say the NCAA hasn’t done its part to include a wider range of student-athletes. For example, the NCAA’s office of inclusion released a comprehensive guide that clarifies the nuances of gender, scientific considerations and supplies recommended measures for transgender athlete integration.
The best way to fully acknowledge sex as a spectrum within the college sports world is to completely eliminate sex-based segregation. That would open up athletics to everyone, including gender nonconforming and intersex individuals who do not comfortably fit into either the male or female category and currently have no place.
Some may argue that it’s radical and impractical to abolish segregation along sex lines in sport as it would give men an unfair advantage over women. That may be true in sports that emphasize strength and speed, but not all men are stronger than all women, and not every sport requires strength and speed to be successful as an athlete.
Unfair advantage is the basis of sport, so if some men are stronger and taller than some women, so be it. Regardless of the matter, everyone deserves a chance to compete at the highest athletic levels.