In British Columbia recently, an elementary-school track meet became something very different.
A nine-year-old girl was preparing to take part in a shot-put event when a man spoke out about the girl’s participation. The man, Josef Tesar, has claimed that he privately spoke to officials, while the girl’s parents and others present claim that he made a much larger scene.
“She was standing in line and all of a sudden, this man comes out of the crowd,” said one of the girl’s mothers, Heidi Starr, to the New York Post. “He stops the entire event and says ‘This is a girl’s event, why are boys allowed to throw?'”
The nine-year-old wears her hair in a short pixie cut.
“If she’s not a boy,” Tesar is reported to have said, “she is obviously trans.”
Tesar’s wife was reportedly not above the fray either, accusing Heidi Starr and her wife, Kari, of being, “genital mutilators, groomers and pedophiles.”
Tesar also demanded documentation that the nine-year-old was assigned female at birth.
In spite of some questions as to who said what, Tesar has remained adamant on one thing: his right to question a child’s gender identity.
“I am not apologizing for that question that I asked. I think, personally, I have a right to ask questions, and I always will for the rest of my life.”
He further claims that the child’s parents were the ones trying to “satisfy an agenda.”
Over the last few months, we have seen a rise among the right in the US and elsewhere to press the idea that transgender girls and women are attempting to infiltrate women’s sports. This is to, I suppose, take advantage of some innate masculinity to, I guess, win fortune and fame.
Of course, women’s sports have always been known for their lucrative prizes and high levels of celebrity. Particularly, I suppose, for nine-year-old shot-put competitors in British Columbia schools.
Additionally, both those of us who are transgender, as well as our allies, have been painted with the same terms the Starrs were smeared with.
Legislators across the United States, for example, have sought to remove parental agency, removing trans children from supportive households by arguing that gender affirming care — itself, not including hormonal treatments and surgical interventions in young children — is a form of child abuse. Likewise, simply acknowledging that LGBTQ+ people exist has fueled book bans and “don’t say gay” bills, with their proponents claiming that the mere acknowledgment of queer identities is “grooming” children into underage sex.
It really doesn’t, to me, make much sense. Probably not to you, either.
The thing, after months of this constant drumbeat, there are a large number of people caught up in the hysteria — and not just in places like Greg Abbott’s Texas or Ronald DeSantis’ Florida. It doesn’t matter how blatant and ridiculous the lies: many have long been primed to believe in such, and our dysfunctional media is not at all interested in pushing back against this right-wing narrative.
So now this long campaign against transgender people, the larger LGBTQ+ community, and even our allies and supporters has led to a non-transgender nine-year-old being berated by an adult man at a track meet.
I want to say I told you so. Any time you focus on who is or isn’t transgender, it is never just transgender people affected. Bathroom bans rarely cause transgender people to be kicked out, but more commonly cause non-transgender women to be challenged in their local restroom stalls. Gender conformity is wielded against us all.
For that matter, I think this very story would have read very differently if the nine-year-old in question was transgender. Would the stories have been nearly as sympathetic if she had been assigned male at birth, even though, at age nine, there’s simply no physical advantage? Would it frame the parents or even the child as the villain of the tale, or even attempted to present this as some sort of “both sides are bad” argument?
The day that Tesar decided that a nine-year-old child shouldn’t be allowed on the field, the shot-put event was moved to the other side of the field, away from him. Nevertheless, the girl, obviously shaken, did not place in the event.
Tesar is now barred from future competitions and as of this writing, remains under investigation by the Kelowna Royal Canadian Mounted Police for possible discriminatory actions. He may also be losing his own spot in sports history as an inductee into the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame as a wrestler and coach.
As I said, this sort of anti-transgender mania will never be contained to just trans people, and will affect us all. No woman will be safe from being challenged in sporting events, in bathrooms, or anywhere in public life. Anyone who shows support for transgender people will face the same sort of accusations as the Starrs, which will prevent the timider from supporting us at all.
Those of us who are trans, of course, will end up ostracized from public life. Many of us may even end up dead, either from our own hands or others.
This event should be a wakeup call. We can choose to let things grow even worse, or we can fight back. Cowards like Josef Tesar should be told, firmly, to go back to their caves.
Gwen Smith knows very little about shot put, and is happy to keep it that way. She can be found at www.gwensmith.com.