Don’t take this wrong – I’m old enough that I taught at TSJC when the only surgeon in the US performing transexual surgery was Stanley Biber at Mount San Rafael hospital – across the Purgatory and downstream a bit from the college. My colleague down the hall described the most horrifying part of a motorcycle accident that left him with a broken pelvis was seeing Dr. Biber walk in just as the anesthetist was putting him under. The first transexual I encountered was on campus in the early eighties. College athletics had nothing to do with it back then. It didn’t matter when I retired and left the academy.
Still, I think back on the last transexual student assigned to me. A wonderful kid, a great human being, struggling to find a place. He didn’t fit with the conservative black Christian church where he was raised. Being gay wasn’t quite right for him. Deciding to try life as a transexual was where he was at as he left SDSU and I retired. I haven’t heard from him in four or five years – but I hope his life is easier and less stressful. There are plenty of social norms in this world to pain my students – but I hope the transition from he to she left her with a less strained life than he had.
Thinking about sports – at Trinidad, I discovered Service Rifle competition. I have shot matches with the 1903A3, the Garand, and with a borrowed AR. I never finished in the bottom half – my best showing was 6th place – but you don’t see men trying to shoot Service Rifle matches as women. Might have something to do with the 2021 winner – SSG Amanda Elsenboss – NRA Service Rifle National Champion, with a score of 2386-133X. She was also 2021 High Power National Champion, and High Woman and High National Guard in Service Rifle. Some of our best shooters are women, and I can lose as badly to them in blue jeans as anything else.
Still, it’s been about 40 years since I rode across Raton Pass for my introduction to the High Power competition. I had a borrowed AR, and I needed the match on record to qualify for the Garand. My first introduction to the really good shooters was Metallic Silhouette, in Havre, where you got points by knocking over steel chickens, pigs, turkeys and rams at unholy distances. Renata still has a second metal from that era – there were only a few women competing. I didn’t take home anything but empties. But High Power, Service Rifle – they don’t care. Men, women all shoot the same targets at the same ranges. I have shot against Olympic competitors and Distinguished Riflemen. And lost to them.
From what I have seen, there are some top female shooters in the National Guard. The Guard has a little more flexibility with their MOS – and it shows. And if anyone thinks that the shooting sports aren’t real collegiate sports, I’d like to remind them that Montana State’s outstanding athlete was a short aggie from Carter, Montana. Four time All-American. Did it all with a 22. The only Olympic athlete ever to win a medal in all three Olympic rifle events. Lones Wigger, Jr. Never met the man, though we shared friends and locations.
So, as I’ve watched Lia Thomas setting new swimming records as a woman, I’ve been wondering about the sports where there is an advantage to one sex or another. I suppose that a tiny transman might be able to salvage a gymnastics career when she grew too tall for the women’s sports. I can’t quite understand it, but I do remember realizing that I was too big to be a jockey at 10.
I watch the news about Thomas setting new records as a swimmer – and I see news about pain. Pain to the women who can’t win when the rules are changed, and the pain that I saw in a transexual student who wasn’t find a place to fit in well with the world.