Trans Athletes Fight To Keep Playing Sports | Crooked Media
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March 28, 2024
What A Day
Trans Athletes Fight To Keep Playing Sports

In This Episode

  • The federal government announced on Thursday some upcoming changes to the next Census. The form will consolidate two existing questions about race and ethnicity into one question. There will also be a longer list of race categories for people to select from, along with the ability to choose more than one. The list will include, for the first time, the option to select “Middle Eastern or North African.”
  • This Sunday is International Transgender Day of Visibility. It comes amid a legislative, political and sociocultural assault on the lives of trans people. Sports journalist and athlete Karleigh Chardonnay Webb talks about one of those assaults: a recent lawsuit against the NCAA that seeks to roll back eligibility rules for trans college athletes.
  • And in headlines: A federal court says South Carolina can use a Congressional map ruled unconstitutional for the the 2024 election, FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried was sentenced to 25 years in prison, and House Speaker Mike Johnson said he’ll send impeachment articles against DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the Senate on April 10.

 

Show Notes:

 

 

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TRANSCRIPT

 

Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, March 29th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 

 

Abdul El-Sayed: And I’m Abdul El-Sayed and this is What a Day, the pod no one’s really listening to this morning. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, everybody is listening to Beyonce’s latest release, Cowboy Carter. So as far as I’m concerned, all is right with the world. 

 

Abdul El-Sayed: You know, Trevor, I’m listening too. Uh. You just can’t hear me because it’s in my AirPod. [laughter] [music break]

 

Tre’vell Anderson: On today’s show, Trans Day of Visibility is this Sunday, and we will hear why it’s important that trans athletes are visible in sports. Plus, 7-Eleven tests our patience by announcing it’s going to start selling the worst sounding flavor of sparkling water since Pamplemousse. 

 

Abdul El-Sayed: You mean, pimple moose? [laughter] But first. Who’s ready for revisions to Statistical Policy Directive number 15? I sure am. Been waiting for it my whole life in fact. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: You going to have to explain to us why you’ve been waiting on this Abdul. 

 

Abdul El-Sayed: All right Tre’vell. Statistical policy directive number 15 is the one that directs the federal government’s collection and presentation of data about race and ethnicity. In layman’s terms, we’re talking about how the census collects it. And there was a huge announcement Thursday that’s a game changer for many communities of color. That’s because for as long as I can remember, yours truly, one Abdulrahman Mohamed El-Sayed, whose parents were both born in Egypt and who gets stopped at airports all the time, has been considered by his government as white. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Which, you know, I always remind people Egypt is on the continent of Africa. I’m just saying something’s not right there. Okay?

 

Abdul El-Sayed: We’re holding it down. We’re holding down that northeast corner. And yesterday, all of this wrongdoing changed when the Federal Office of Management and Budget finally recommended some long awaited shifts. It represents decades of organizing and effort. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: So this affects the kind of questions that we will see on federal census forms and surveys. Down the line, private businesses and researchers might follow the government’s suit, too. So what will change here? 

 

Abdul El-Sayed: Aside from everything, first, rather than asking two separate questions about race and ethnicity, which is often confusing to folks, it unifies the questions into one with recommendations to choose as many answers as someone needs to best describe how they identify. Right now, quote, “ethnicity” is the question on those forms that asks if you’re of Hispanic or Latino origin. Second, those options will for the first time include a Middle Eastern or North African or MENA option. Whoop whoop. Third, it requires the Census Bureau to collect additional detail, helping us better understand things like biracial identity or country of origin. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: So what does this mean for the kind of data that the census can collect now? 

 

Abdul El-Sayed: It should give us a much richer picture of the true diversity of our country, and it offers so many of us who felt erased by the census, the opportunity to be seen and understood in our full richness by our government. One year after the 2020 U.S. census, for example, the Urban Institute put out a report that said that the census probably undercounted some 2.5 million people in various racial and ethnic groups. But it goes well beyond just being seen and appreciated. Institutions like health care systems, school districts and universities usually model their race and ethnicity collection off the federal government, so this move by the federal government will have huge cascading impacts downstream in the institutions that shape American life too. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And as a health care expert and a MENA identifying person yourself, I imagine this update means a lot to you as well. Right? 

 

Abdul El-Sayed: Well, Tre’vell. For the first time, the government has a chance at collecting accurate data. Given that there was no MENA category, our community was just erased and that had serious implications. See, I’m an epidemiologist, and I started my career studying the risk of premature birth and infant mortality among marginalized communities. A lot of my focus was on the Latino and MENA communities, but without high quality formal data about the number of MENA identifying folks in a given community, for example, it was almost impossible to calculate the rate of infant mortality. Remember, these numbers are calculated as the number of outcomes per 10 or 100,000 people. But if you don’t know how many people there are, well, you get the picture. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Right. So it’s literally as deep as saving babies. 

 

Abdul El-Sayed: It absolutely is. Being seen means being measured too. And being measured means that researchers and public health leaders like me can identify the inequities that too often shape the health of marginalized communities. And maybe with this data, we can rebalance resources where they’re needed most. As the health director for the county with the largest MENA and Latino communities in my state, Michigan, I promise you that that really matters. These changes announced by the census won’t be right away. Federal agencies have about 18 months to come up with a plan in line with this new directive, but it’s really exciting. So now you know why I love Statistical Policy Directive number 15. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Thanks so much for that Abdul, from representation and visibility in the ways that our government is collecting information about us to now International Transgender Day of Visibility, which is this weekend, the same day as Easter this year. We are, after all, divine beings. I’m going to zero in on trans visibility in sports because of a very big lawsuit filed earlier this month that targets trans athletes. 

 

Abdul El-Sayed: Before you go on, can you give us a little background on Trans Day of Visibility? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. So the day was created by activist Rachel Crandall-Crocker back in 2009. The TLDR is that she was frustrated that the only well known trans focused day at the time was Trans Day of Remembrance, which is one where we honor lives lost in our community due to violence. She basically felt like both the LGBQ community as well as straight cis folks, needed to put some respect on the lives of trans folks and our contributions to culture and society at large. And so now, across the globe on March 31st, that is the day dedicated to do just that, even though y’all should be doing it 365 days, 366 on the leap year as well. And as we all know, this trans day of visibility is happening amid a legislative, political, and sociocultural assault on our lives as trans people. 

 

Abdul El-Sayed: Which just cannot be ignored or denied. Can you tell us how bad it’s become? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, so we’ve covered many of the anti-trans happenings on this show already. Like, for example, the circumstances around the death of Nex Benedict, the non-binary Oklahoma teen who took their own life after an altercation at school back in February, or The New York Times, and how they helped fuel right wing anti-trans panic. The media monitoring group Media Matters said that back in 2022 and this week they joined GLAAD in releasing a follow up report revealing that the supposed paper of record, after being called out by trans journalists and advocates last year, is still facilitating what amounts to anti-trans misinformation. In that report, it said that from February 2023 to February 2024, 61% of their articles on anti-trans bills didn’t include a trans voice, and there are 533 of those discriminatory bills in 41 states right now. That’s according to the Trans Legislation Tracker. All of these bills, right, are about a few different things. They don’t want us as trans adults or youth to have access to the gender affirming and lifesaving health care that some of us require. They want to restrict where we can use the bathroom. 

 

Abdul El-Sayed: And maybe one of the biggest areas of intense assault for trans people is in sports. Can you tell us more about that? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Right. So just a couple weeks ago, a group of 16 transphobic student athletes filed a class action lawsuit against the NCAA and its policies that allow trans people to compete in sports aligned with their identities. That suit wants to ban all trans women from all NCAA sports, and is just one part of what journalist Imara Jones calls the anti-trans hate machine. All of this, and so much more, has led to 85% of transgender adults saying that we’re facing a national state of emergency. That’s according to a new poll by data for progress. So, Abdul, I wanted to talk about that lawsuit against the NCAA, as well as what we’re navigating as a community on this coming day of visibility. And so I called up sports journalist and athlete Karleigh Chardonnay Webb. She’s currently a contributor for OutSports, but previously wrote for ESPN for over two decades. She’s also the former co-host of the Transporter Room podcast, a show highlighting trans athletes. And I started by asking her if there was a special memory or moment in her life that made her realize how much she loved being an athlete. 

 

Karleigh Chardonnay Webb: I want to give a little shout out to the people that made that moment possible. My girls on [?]’s women’s football. The memory for me was actually first game playing for them last April. I first met this team, they set up a tent at a pride. Their quarterback comes to me, you look like you can play a little bit. You should come to our tryout in August. And I asked, can I play? Because, you know, sports leagues and trans women, they’re not seeing eye to eye on this. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Uh huh. 

 

Karleigh Chardonnay Webb: And the team administrator comes to me and says we are a women’s football team for all women. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Oh, wow. 

 

Karleigh Chardonnay Webb: This group of 21 women on our team and 20 of them are cis. And they are all accepting and loving. I have 20 new sisters now. That’s what it was like. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Wow, I love that. So let’s jump into this op ed that you wrote about the NCAA lawsuit shortly after it dropped earlier this month. We know that these cis women, they don’t want trans women to compete because they think that their inclusion right violates title nine or whatever. But can you give us some of the details about this lawsuit on, you know, what more these plaintiffs want the NCAA to actually do beyond just banning trans women from playing sports? 

 

Karleigh Chardonnay Webb: Well, to start with, let’s talk about who put this lawsuit together. It’s being powered by a group who calls themselves the Independent Counsel for Women’s sports. It is a group of people who call themselves feminists, but I call them [?]. And the main reason I do that is look who they’re working with and who they’re getting logistical and financial support from. Groups like the Independent Women’s Forum, who calls themselves a Christian conservative group. There’s another group, Concerned Women for America, they’re the same type of group. And they in turn get their bread from the Heritage Foundation. We all know what the Heritage Foundation is. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Oh we do. 

 

Karleigh Chardonnay Webb: They’re a right wing think tank, which the Southern Poverty Law Center refers to as an anti LGBTQ hate group. What they’re asking the NCAA to do is to end the now 11 year old transgender participation policy. And they basically want to say that trans women are not women, should not be able to be in women’s competition at all. But the second thing is really petty and personal. They want the NCAA to go back through all their records. They want them to redact those records. They want to change them and disqualify and take away anything that a transgender woman has done in collegiate sport. So, for example, CeCe Telfer,, who five years ago became the first transgender student athlete to win an individual NCAA championship. They want to take her Division two championship in the 400 meter hurdles away. They want to take Lia Thomas’s swim championship that she won two years ago, they want to take that away. That’s the personal, petty part of it all, because really, that’s Riley Gaines being Riley Gaines.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s talk a little bit more about Riley Gaines for the folks you know who don’t know, who is Riley Gaines? Why is she a face right of this anti trans women in sports movement right now? 

 

Karleigh Chardonnay Webb: Well Riley Gaines is a former swimmer at the University of Kentucky. She is a 12 time All-American. She’s won two SEC championships, Division one swimming nationals in 2022. She was in an event final where she finished tied for fifth in the 200 yard freestyle. She tied with Lia Thomas. And first, Riley said it was no big deal. Nothing against Lia. We just felt that the NCAA didn’t give us a heads up on this when the fact is this is a rule. What do they need to give you a heads up on? A couple weeks afterwards, Gaines did an interview with Christina [?], who is a trans woman who is a reporter, and she basically told Christina that, no, there was no problem with Lia. It was some issues with the NCAA, but there was no problem with Lia. Now, what happened between that interview in April and her showing up at the Icons conference, what I call transphobapalooza, and start saying these libelous, ugly things about Lia Thomas. Saying those things like, she’s a six foot four inch biological male who showed her male genitalia. She’s basically been going around and making the rounds at college campuses. There’s a Riley Gaines Foundation now. Another right wing think tank is backing her up on that. So she’s the head of this lawsuit. For her, it’s just personal. But for the people behind this, it’s very political. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: You mentioned kind of the broader sports landscape. We talked about collegiate. We’re seeing these bans even impacting the babies in middle school. Right. In high school who really just want to play. What would you say is the impact, right, that all of this has on young trans girls or trans kids, you know, in general who are being forced to sit on the sidelines while everyone else, you know, is able to participate. 

 

Karleigh Chardonnay Webb: And it’s hurting kids. And I want to call out Icons women for something. I want to call out the Independent Council on Women’s Sports for something very important. They have taken on their social media to out high school trans kids who play, and not only are they outing them on their social media, they’re dead naming these kids, they dox these kids. And you don’t think that don’t affect these kids, these kids already get enough especially in these states that are passing this legislation. You have people that are going to these lengths to demonize a young person just because they want to play a game. Same thing with LiaThomas, I mean, the mere fact that Riley Gaines can basically call Lia Thomas a sex offender and people believe it. That’s how lynchings start. And you had Riley Gaines when she went on Charlie Kirk’s little podcast. And Charlie Kirk’s talking about they should have take care of Lia Thomas like we used to do back in the ’50s and ’60s. Now Tre’vell, we both Black. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Listen. 

 

Karleigh Chardonnay Webb: What does that sound like to you? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, okay? You ain’t got to spell it out for me, okay? Because, you know, I know. This also makes me think um, and this isn’t necessarily a sports case, but this same environment and the the sentiment that we’re talking about. 

 

Karleigh Chardonnay Webb: Nex Benedict. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I was exactly going there. What we know for sure is that the environment that these conservatives are creating leads to an experience like Nex’s, right? Where–

 

Karleigh Chardonnay Webb: Yes. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: They aren’t supported in school, where they are harassed and abused in school, and they feel like they’re only result right, is to take their life. But before we go, Karleigh, I want to just step back a little bit, right? Because in community we often talk about how visibility is a paradox. Right? My whole book, we see each other a Black trans journey through TV and film is all about this concept of visibility being a paradox. On one hand, we as trans people are more visible than ever right in the pop cultural imagination. But the vitriol, as you’ve already just explained, that’s aimed at trailblazing folks like Lia Thomas. We’re also experiencing unprecedented violence as a community, from the sports bans to the don’t say gay to the, you know, all the other legislation, not to mention the murders that are happening, right, of our siblings and our sisters more um especially. How do you reconcile that drastic difference of experience that we’re having at the same time? If you reconcile it at all. 

 

Karleigh Chardonnay Webb: It’s not so much that I reconcile it. We take it for what it is. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: We take it for what it is. 

 

Karleigh Chardonnay Webb: On one side. It’s great to see this visibility. I want to see more of it. I want to see our everyday stories are told. Because the fact of the matter is what you see on these, like social media and all this nastiness, that’s not our everyday. I really don’t talk about being trans all that much unless I’m on a forum like this where we’re actually talking about these things. But in my everyday, I mean, when I’m at the gym. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: We just living, like everybody else.

 

Karleigh Chardonnay Webb: You got like my training partners in sports, my football team, they know and they don’t care. They’re like you’re trans whoop dee doo make that block and run through the right hole and that’s all they care about. My mentor in college always told me, you got to know who you are, know who they are and what time it is, and we know who we are. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Amen. 

 

Karleigh Chardonnay Webb: And that’s the thing that bothers them the most. And they’re upset about the fact that we are living in joy. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: That was my conversation with sports journalist and athlete Karleigh Chardonnay Webb. We’ll link to her work in our show notes. That’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s get to some headlines. 

 

[sung] Headlines. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: There are a couple important developments on fiercely contested congressional maps. First, a group of federal judges ruled yesterday that South Carolina can use a map this November it originally said was unconstitutional. It’s a map designed by state Republicans to shore up the reelection of white congresswoman Nancy Mace. The judges ruled last year that the map was racially gerrymandered. But then the case went before the Supreme Court in October. And the justices have yet to make their own ruling. Yesterday, the same federal judges said that South Carolina can’t wait any longer. The state’s congressional primary is in June, and some absentee ballots need to be printed and sent in less than a month. And so the judges gave the state the okay to use the unconstitutional map. Meanwhile, in Florida, federal judges unanimously dealt a blow to civil rights groups on Wednesday. The groups challenged a map from 2022 that eliminated a northern congressional district last held by Black Democrat Al Lawson. But in Wednesday’s ruling, the judges said the groups needed to prove that both Governor Ron DeSantis and the state legislature acted with discrimination in mind when they approved the map. DeSantis is that guy. We know he is, of course, and at least one of the judges clearly agreed in his opinion. But the judges also said that the legislature fought him at several steps along the way before conceding. As a result of Wednesday’s ruling, the 2022 map will still be in use for this November’s elections. But this issue is still on appeal in state courts. 

 

Abdul El-Sayed: All right, so from GOP absurdity at the state level to GOP absurdity at the federal level. Republican House speaker Mike Johnson says he’ll send impeachment articles against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the Senate on April 10th. Johnson said so in a letter he sent to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday. Schumer’s office responded in a statement that senators would be sworn in as jurors for the trial the following day on April 11th. House Republicans very narrowly impeached Mayorkas back in February over his handling of the US-Mexico border. A move Democrats dismissed as cynical, partisan, and unconstitutional. It took Republicans two tries. The first one failed after three Republicans joined Democrats in voting against Mayorkas’s impeachment. A major embarrassment for Speaker Johnson. Schumer hasn’t outlined what a trial in the Senate will look like, but there’s almost no chance the democratically controlled chamber will convict the DHS secretary. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced founder of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday. A jury convicted him last year on fraud, conspiracy and money laundering charges for stealing billions of dollars from FTX’s customers. Bankman-Fried was facing quite a bit more time behind bars than the 25 years he received. Federal prosecutors had sought 40 to 50 years, and his conviction carried a maximum sentence of more than 100 years. The judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, said Bankman-Fried also repeatedly committed perjury on the witness stand. Bankman-Fried has said he will appeal his conviction because, of course he will. 

 

Abdul El-Sayed: Of course he will and he’ll probably pay for it with crypto. [laugh] Finally, we’re pretty sure this is an early April Fool’s joke, but there’s news about 7-Eleven, and we’re not taking any chances to warn you. The company announced on Wednesday that it will debut a new line of sparkling waters that will include the flavor Big Bite Hot Dog, which is just rank. Disgusting. And that drink, well, it’ll have hints of ketchup and mustard. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: It just got worse. 

 

Abdul El-Sayed: It really got worse. Like if you boiled hot dogs and then mistakenly put the ketchup and mustard into the water and then put that thing in a soda stream. That’s kind of what this is. Oooh. Again, we do think that this is an April Fool’s joke because, well, in a press release, 7-Eleven says more details about the availability of Hot dog sparkling water will be released on the first. But if it’s not a joke, then I’m glad I’m fasting for Ramadan. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, maybe I need to fast too, Abdul ,because this sounds disgusting. 

 

Abdul El-Sayed: Yeah, and I’m pretty sure that their hot dogs aren’t halal either, so, like, come on over Tre’vell. And those are the headlines. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Two more things before we go. March 31st is Cesar Chavez Day. Tune in to What a Day this Monday for a real conversation about why our immigration system doesn’t work and what’s at stake this November, as both Biden and Trump make their case for how to fix it, we’ll hear from people like immigration activist Dani Marrero Hi who lives in Texas right along the southern border. 

 

[clip of Dani Marrero Hi] We are an area that has been historically blue, and I think a lot of Latino voters and a lot of border voters are looking for an alternative to Trump. And when President Biden comes and doesn’t provide a very clear alternative on that, I think it makes a lot of Latino voters question, well, who should we turn to? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: That episode comes Monday on April 1st. 

 

Abdul El-Sayed: Plus, earlier this week, constitutional law professor Leah Litman, joined us to break down the latest abortion pill case that’s in front of the Supreme Court. To get a quick take on the oral arguments. Check out the latest episode in the Strict Scrutiny feed, where Leah and her co-hosts talk about the bottom line and what’s next for abortion access. And of course, don’t miss our next episode of America Dissected, which drops on Tuesday, where we’ll be talking about practical approaches to taking on disparities and inequities in infant mortality. I hope you’ll check it out. [music break]

 

Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you like the show. Make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Don’t drink the hot dog water and tell your friends to listen. 

 

Abdul El-Sayed: And if you’re into reading and not just exciting new census forms like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Abdul El-Sayed.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson.

 

[spoken together] And giddy up for cowboy Carter.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Listen okay. It’s giving country music okay. Love this for us.

 

Abdul El-Sayed: It has all the feels I, I really just I, you know, I don’t know what to make of it, but I’ve been listening this entire taping. [laughter] [music break] 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Michell Eloy, Greg Walters and Julia Claire, and our showrunner is Leo Duran. Adriene Hill is our executive producer. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka. 

 

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