A transgender teenager won a Texas state title for girls wrestling on Saturday — even though the wrestler, 17-year-old Mack Beggs, identifies as a boy.
The junior from Euless Trinity, northwest of Dallas, emerged victorious in the 110-pound weight class to cheers and jeers after forfeitures from previous opponents and a bid to block him from competing failed.
"I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for my teammates," Mack said in a statement after the match, according to The Dallas Morning News. "We trained hard every single day. Every single day and that's where the spotlight should have been on."
Instead, much of the focus was on Mack, who is transitioning from female to male and is taking testosterone. Mack would have preferred to be wrestling boys, but state policy forced him to compete according to the gender listed on his birth certificate.
Some parents worried that this created an unfair advantage.
"Whatever reason doesn't matter," said Patti Overstreet. "They are using something. They are stacked. They are huge, and it's not fair."
Another parent, Jim Baudhuin, filed an injunction that sought to have the state's University Interscholastic Scholastic League bar Mack from wrestling. Baudhin told the AP that he sympathized with Mack, whom he referred to as a female.
"The more I learn about this, the more I realize that she's just trying to live her life and her family is, too," Baudhuin said. "She's being forced into that position."
The blame, he added, "rests with the UIL and the superintendents."
Baudhuin's effort failed, however: The state allows steroids if they're used for valid medical purposes.
Some classmates rallied behind Mack — "I think he should do whatever he wants to do and be whatever he wants to be," as one put it — while LGBTQ advocates worried about the broader problems Mack's experience point to.
"Everybody deserves to have equal access, opportunity and experience in sports, and I think Mack's story shows us that we're falling short of that goal," said Hudson Taylor, director of Athlete Ally, an organization that promotes acceptance of LGBTQ athletes. "Not enough sporting communities have inclusive transgender policies, and so when we don't allow equal access and opportunity, everybody loses."
The debate comes as Texas lawmakers have proposed a new so-called bathroom bill and as transgender students across the country worry about losing gains made under President Barack Obama. Last week, officials at the Education and Justice departments rescinded Obama-era directives that allowed those students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that aligned with their gender identities.