It’d be eye roll-inducing if it weren’t so darkly nauseating.
A woman named Lia Thomas won the NCAA Division 1 national championship for the 500-yard freestyle swimming race last week. Thomas is the first transgender athlete to earn this title, beating out Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Emma Weyant, who won second place at the NCAA tournament.
Let me just issue a disclaimer: I know next to nothing about sportz. All of this is an incredibly impressive feat for all involved parties. But Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and other Republicans in Congress and around the U.S. were clearly slavering for a chance to make the competition political.
Boebert, along with 20 other Republican co-sponsors, introduced a House resolution this week that would recognize the second-place finisher, Weyant, as the champion of the NCAA tournament. On its face, it is a practice in triviality for sitting members of Congress to get involved in this, using their legislative power to declare who, in their thinking, is the rightful winner of an NCAA swimming tournament. But, it is also, of course, much bigger and more sinister than that.
Thomas’ win predictably granted Republicans a soapbox from which to scream about their anti-trans agenda. And those with presidential ambitions appear to be yelling the loudest. Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis used Thomas’ win last week to advance his GOP-dominated state legislature’s various attempts to discriminate against transgender people in the state. Earlier this month, Florida passed its infamous HB 1557 legislation, coined by activists as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. DeSantis signed the bill into law this week, which blocks teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in classrooms with students under third grade. It’s a really vile bill that sponsors have dubbed an anti-“grooming” effort in the state, a problematic characterization to begin with, but one that feeds into the current Republican belief that public schools are a breeding ground to indoctrinate children into becoming woke leftist cyborgs.
“By allowing men to compete in women’s sports, the NCAA is destroying opportunities for women, making a mockery of its championships, and perpetuating a fraud,” DeSantis tweeted last week. “In Florida, we reject these lies and recognize Sarasota’s Emma Weyant as the best women’s swimmer in the 500y freestyle.”
DeSantis also signed a state proclamation on Tuesday that declared Weyant the tournament winner.
But Boebert’s resolution feeds into this broader socially conservative cultural flashpoint, as the Republican Party flails around without a legislative agenda heading into the Midterms, using the right-wing media’s obsession with non-existent issues as a proxy for a solid messaging platform.
“Emma Weyant was the fastest woman competing in the 2022 NCAA Division I Women’s 500-Yard Freestyle, but her first-place win was stolen by a mediocre man who couldn’t cut it in men’s swimming,” Boebert said upon introducing the bill. The rest of the statement includes more elements of the kind of problematic language you’d expect. There’s no need to give it a platform here.
The resolution will go nowhere in the Democrat-controlled House. But the proposal coupled with Boebert’s statement are about as grossly anti-trans as you can get, advancing the brand of backwards Republican grievance distractions that have mostly popped up at the state level, up to this point, while giving the non-issue rhetoric a platform in Washington.
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