As the United States Congress goes about confirming President Joe Biden's picks for cabinet positions, some Republican Senators are publicly displaying troubling levels of ignorance and bigotry.
During the confirmation hearing of Dr. Miguel Cardona for Secretary of Education, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky questioned him about transgender students participating in school sports.
In response Dr. Cardona expressed his support for allowing all students to participate in extracurricular activities.
This seemed to upset the Senator who responded with a hypothetical ignorant rant about women being forced to wrestle against "hulking six-foot-four guys."
If Paul were better educated on school sports, he'd know wrestling is not part of most sports programs available to girls and when it is, wrestlers are divided by weight classes.
But like most transphobic rhetoric, Paul's objections relied on ignorance.
.@RandPaul: "Do you think it's fair to have boys running in the girls track meet?" Sec. @usedgov Nominee Cardona:… https://t.co/cQBFciceJ8— CSPAN (@CSPAN)1612369933.0
The issue has become the new lightning rod for transphobes—who failed to gain traction with bathroom scare tactics—after a complaint was filed against a Connecticut law that enforced protections for trans students. This included mandating that the students are allowed in interscholastic sports of their gender.
Dr. Cardona served as the commissioner of education for Connecticut before being appointment to President Biden's cabinet.
These events and facts galvanized Paul to move from questioning Cardona to an outright transphobic rant.
This line of questioning led many online to conclude that the senator is a bit of a jerk.
Of course he did. https://t.co/U04HvzR9pa— Randy Shulman (@Randy Shulman)1612380690.0
This type of transphobia is exactly why many of our loved ones face discrimination and worse just for existing. To… https://t.co/gfMU12UX2x— Charles Booker (@Charles Booker)1612370847.0
Feminist here, who would welcome the chance to wrestle Rand Paul. Trans women are women. And Rand Paul is clearly s… https://t.co/vZT5BMqh50— mistress aquafaba (@mistress aquafaba)1612377186.0
I totally understand why his neighbor tuned him up. https://t.co/MIN4lKIE0y— Bryan Harnsberger Psy.D (@Bryan Harnsberger Psy.D)1612453274.0
After questioning Cardona about Connecticut's policies, Paul went off on his ignorant diatribe on the idea of letting transgender students participate in school sports.
"This kind of thing is going to lead to just the vast majority of Americans wondering who are these people that think it's OK? From what planet are you from to think it's OK for boys to compete with girls in a track meet and that that somehow would be fair?"
"I wonder where feminists are on this. I wonder where the people who supported women's sports are on this. Are we all going to be OK with hulking six-foot-four guys, you know, wrestling against girls?"
"You know, it just makes no sense whatsoever and so I think the fact that you seem to be afraid to answer the question really is a statement to a problem we have and a disconnect between what middle America and what most Americans actually believe."
While some trans women have found some success in sports, most have found less success than their cisgender counterparts.
I carried a hulking 6'4" guy on my back up a hill in order to play high school soccer in the 90s. There was no team… https://t.co/4nY6R21nf3— Catherine Koebel (@Catherine Koebel)1612373057.0
Guess what @RandPaul, if they are in the same weight class it doesn't really matter does it? Transgender athletes s… https://t.co/mqJG0zGmO3— Chris Padilla, MS, LAT, ATC (@Chris Padilla, MS, LAT, ATC)1612377270.0
Stop attacking young trans athletes and find a hobby! https://t.co/Lplt9mCdkr— Lilith Ingram 🏳️⚧️ (@Lilith Ingram 🏳️⚧️)1612449298.0
The supposed worries around trans women competing with cis women is a higher level of testosterone or more musculature or a larger frame as a result of puberty.
But with transgender children coming out sooner and with hormone blockers, fewer transgender girls will experience the puberty people like Paul are referring to.
And trans women's success in women's sports has been less consistent than the detractors claim. Studies have found little in the way of trans women having a significant advantage over cis women.
There are even regular incidents of cisgender women overtaking cisgender men in sports. In the same way being tall isn't a guarantee of success in basketball, body size
Because of these facts, many online didn't take the concerns of Senator Paul as anything more than ignorant transphobic rhetoric.
Remember when Renee Richards dominated women’s tennis in the 1970s? Yeah, me either. https://t.co/NKt2LJzCix— partlydave (@partlydave)1612439754.0
As a hulking 6’4” guy, I am asking that @RandPaul kindly keep my height out of his transphobic mouth. This is a ge… https://t.co/DkdUCh9jLv— Grant King (@Grant King)1612469431.0
Rand Paul has figured out their evil plot 🙄😑🙄😑🙄😑 https://t.co/60tvOCMfg6 https://t.co/n2DZXkVFYo— isupplychain (@isupplychain)1612383120.0
After his line of questioning, Paul was joined by other Republican Senators who questioned the validity of women competing with other women. Despite this display, activist groups came to the defense of trans women.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) denounced Paul's rant, saying:
"Transgender girls are girls—plain and simple. There are thousands of issues facing students across the country during the pandemic, from reopening schools and restarting in-person learning to addressing and protecting the mental health of our children."
"Yet, despite all of those pressing crises, Sen. Rand Paul chose to exclusively use all of his allotted time to attack transgender children: misgendering, spewing misinformation, and insinuating malintent among children who are just seeking to participate in sports."