Monitoring public opinion on controversial topics is always interesting. Over the course of 2021 we saw Laurel Hubbard go on to compete in Olympic weight lifting, Alana McLaughlin making her MMA debut and Lia Thomas winning an NCAA event.
Each of these cases received a very universal public backlash. Attitudes towards trans women participating in women’s sports seems universally opposed so much so that a LGBTQ+ lobby previously refused to release numbers on it in their own report and instead pointed finger to how linking LGBTQ+ issues to past racism might be helpful in changing the public opinion.
A new poll conducted by Washington Post and University of Maryland found that 55 percent of Americans oppose allowing transgender female athletes to compete with other women and girls in high school sports. 58 percent oppose allowing transgender female athletes to compete with biological women at the college and professional sports levels.
Around 30 percent of Americans agree transgender women athletes should be able to compete at any sporting level.
Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they believed transgender girls would have a competitive advantage over other girls.
Mark Hyman, director of UMD’s Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism told WAPO:
“People increasingly have an awareness of the issue and are empathetic toward the journey that transgender people are on, but the notion that they are competing against athletes that are born a particular sex are lagging behind that,” Hyman said.
According to The HIll’s analyst Ryan Grim:
The race class narrative is an update on a theme that 19th century populist pushed, most famously by Tom Watson, who said to white and black farmers famously: ” You are kept apart that you may be separately fleeced of your earnings, you’re made to hate each other because upon that hatred is rested the keystone of the arch of financial despotism, which enslaves you both. ”
The Trans rights memo suggests a similar tack. Specifically, the memo argues “We can and should connect justice for transgender people to issues of racial and economic justice. And by doing so we move our base and persuadable audience on key metrics of support.”
Trans swimmer Lia Thomas certainly got this cue and has been comparing her plight to Jackie Robinson.
‘She compares herself to Jackie Robinson,’ the teammate added, referencing the fact that Robinson broke the race barrier to become the first black man to play Major League Baseball.
‘She said she is like the Jackie Robinson of trans sports.’
Ryan Grim shined a light on why this strategy might work:
The strategy of linking trans rights to racial justice echoes of strategy advocated in a while The distributed 2019 memo that analyzed the rapid success of the trans rights movement in several European countries. One of the key lessons learned was “tie your campaign to more popular reform”. Specifically, it cited the success of linking trans rights to marriage equality and moving it all forward at once. It also then advised ” avoid excessive press coverage and exposure”.