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Guest Opinion

Father/athlete/physician: Protect Central Bucks’ female athletes


The fresh question before our Central Bucks School District, unimaginable five years ago, is whether there is a place for biological boys on girls’ sports teams and in locker rooms. The question, unfortunately, divides us as a community and distracts us from the primary mission of our school district, which is simply education.

But we must decide whether a boy who identifies as a girl should be allowed to compete against girls, and if the rights of biologic boys infringe upon the rights — safety and wellness — of girls. As a former Division 1 athlete, I would like to offer some perspective.

Many years ago, on my college team, the physical reward for months of grueling training was a varsity jacket. The women, who worked every bit as hard as the men, received a bouquet of flowers. Even the sports-crazy SEC (Southeastern Conference) of the 1980s was run with such causal sexism. Near graduation, I gave one of my jackets to a classmate who worked harder than anyone on the team, and deserved something more permanent than a flower. She told me years later how much it meant to have her accomplishments recognized.

Athletics today is as important for women as it is for men. It means camaraderie, competition and accomplishment, and all the life lessons that follow. It meant all that for my own daughter and her teammates, whom I coached for many years. We cannot allow these gains to be reversed by men competing in women’s sports. Men simply have an unfair advantage. Women who would be champions could be relegated to second place, and girls who would at least make a varsity team will face being cut.

It is not a far-flung fantasy that such a scenario could happen. Chelsea Mitchell, was forced to compete against two males in high school track in Connecticut. “My teammates and I watched those two athletes dominate the girls’ events. They...eliminated girls from advancement opportunities more than 85 times,” she wrote in a piece that ran in Newsweek.

The reality is that it has happened, over and over, and young women suffered.

To put things into a local perspective: Central Bucks has had several state champions in girls’ track. That means being the best runner among 1,000 high schools, with tens of thousands of runners. But for every year I can recall, CB West High School alone has had at least 10 boys who could have beaten these champions, depriving them of deserved achievement and the memory of a lifetime.

We must also think of physical safety. As many sports are contact sports, girls playing against the higher muscle mass of biological boys face far greater odds of physical injury. Payton McNabb, a high school volleyball player in North Carolina, sustained a concussion and missed the rest of her final season following a spike in the face from a transgender athlete. She says she is still suffering debilitating problems with vision, headaches and mental health issues. We can all imagine that the child who sent the devastating blow is suffering emotionally as well.

What about the impact of placing a male in a locker room among young women who may have faced the trauma of sexual assault? It’s the very situation that Paula Scanlan, a University of Pennsylvania swimmer faced. In an explosive testimony in front of the U.S. Congress she revealed that she had been sexually assaulted at age 16 and how horrifying it was for her and other teammates to have to change in and out of swimsuits 18 times weekly alongside a man. The activity that likely helped her heal, and succeed in life and academics, had become a horror for her.

Athletic competition is great for our kids. For many of us, youth sports form some of our happiest memories. There was a time when sports benefited primarily boys, but thankfully no longer. Title IX was a hard-fought battle, won over 50 years ago.

As a father, a former athlete, a physician, and a prospective school board director, I will do everything I can to protect the physical and emotional well-being of the girls of the Central Bucks School District.

I will do so with sensitivity and respect, but firmness in the belief that boys should not be in our girls sports spaces.

Stephen Mass, M.D. is a Doylestown-based surgeon, a father of three athletes, and is running for Central Bucks School Board Director in Region 1.

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