After state rules barred him from competing as part of the boy’s league, transgender wrestler Mack Beggs has won his second Texas state wrestling title in the girl’s league.
Although Beggs has been taking hormone replacement therapy for a year and a half, and has repeatedly asked to wrestle as part of the boy’s league, Texas’ University Interscholastic League has barred him because of the “F” on his birth certificate. “Even though I was put in this position, even though I didn’t want to be put in this position, even though I wanted to wrestle the guys, I still had to wrestle the girls,” Beggs told the Dallas Standard, “But what can I tell people? I can tell the state Legislature to change the policy, but I can’t tell them to change it right now. All I can hope for is that they come to their [senses] and realize this is stupid and we should change the policies to conform to other people in my position.”
On February 24th, Beggs beat fellow wrestler Chelsea Sanchez in the Class 6A Region II tournament in Cypress, Texas, to claim the state wrestling title. His win was met with mixed cheers and boos from spectators. Asa Merritt, a West Texas reporter speaking to NPR, said that “there was jeering and jawing.” He added “People said things like, you know, ‘He doesn’t belong there. He should be on a different mat.’ It was really intense.”
Beggs has faced controversy on his way up to the top. The UIL permits Beggs to participate while taking testosterone because it’s a low dose and it’s prescribed by a physician, but many of the parents of his fellow wrestlers are angry that he is competing against girls. Lawyer Jim Baudhuin filed a lawsuit against the UIL last year on behalf of one of the parents. Kayla Fitts, a wrestler he beat in the semifinals, said “I understand if you want to transition your gender. I understand that totally. But there’s a time and a place. You can do that after high school. Or if you want to do it, you can quit the sport. Because I don’t think it’s fair at all that you’re taking testosterone. That’s steroids.”
Despite the controversy, the UIL doesn’t plan to change the rule that prevented Beggs from competing against other boys. “Ninety-five percent of the school superintendents in Texas voted for the rule as it was proposed, which was to use birth certificates,” Jamey Harrison, the UIL’s deputy director, told the Associated Press. “So any rule can be reconsidered, but … given the overwhelming support for that rule, I don’t expect it to change anytime soon.”
Beggs’ win is particularly significant as it comes less than a week after the Trump Administration took away Obama-era federal protections for transgender students using bathrooms appropriate for their gender identity. In a statement on February 23rd, the White House said, “As President Trump has clearly stated, he believes policy regarding transgender bathrooms should be decided at the state level.” The statement also said that Trump’s decision “paves the way for an open and inclusive process to take place at the local level with input from parents, students, teachers, and administrators.” However, anonymous sources told CNN that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos initially opposed the change, concerned that it would put students in an unsafe position.
But even though he’s become the center of a controversy around trans students’ rights, Beggs just wants to focus on wrestling. “I’ve trained too hard for haters to put me down,” he told The Texas Star-Telegram after his win. “I’ve worked too hard for that. I work day in and day out. I’ve been through too much [expletive] for anyone to put me down.” He has received a scholarship offer to a non-Division I university to compete on their men’s team next year.
And, with his bright future in front of him, Beggs won’t let his detractors get to him. “People don’t realize that what happened during state, that was really, honestly, nothing,” Beggs continued, during the interview. “That didn’t stop me from competing. That didn’t stop me from being who I was. It sure as hell didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted to do in the past, and it won’t stop me from what I want to do in the future.”
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