Transgender Athlete Triumphs Amidst Controversy in West Virginia Track Event

Transgender Athlete Triumphs Amidst Controversy in West Virginia Track Event

Becky Pepper-Jackson, a West Virginia track and field athlete, had a memorable week, but the girls competing against the transgender teenager did not.

The eighth-grader from Bridgeport Middle School won the girls’ shot-put event at the Harrison County Middle School Championships on Thursday, throwing more than three feet further than the second-place girl. Pepper-Jackson also finished second in the discus. These podium accomplishments were made possible by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled 2-1 on Tuesday in favor of Pepper-Jackson’s lawsuit against the state’s 2021 statute prohibiting male-born athletes from participating in female school sports.

Female athletes who are concerned about competing against biological males who identify as the opposite sex usually grin and bear it, fearing they will be accused of transphobia, but not this time. Five Lincoln Middle School girls staged a silent protest by entering the circle when it was their turn to compete and then exiting without throwing, according to OutKick, which broadcast a video of the incident.

According to the official records from the tournament held at Liberty High School in Clarksburg, five Lincoln students scored an “ND,” or “No Distance,” in the event. One of the Lincoln females also threw an “ND” in the discus, according to Bridgeport won the meet with 190 points, edging second-place Lincoln, who scored 180 points. Riley Gaines, a former University of Kentucky swimmer and host of OutKick’s “Gaines on Girls,” praised the girls for speaking out.

“This comes just 2 days after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the WV law that says you must compete in the category that matches your sex,” Gaines said in a statement. “It’s a sad day when 13-14-year-old girls have to be the adults in the room, but I couldn’t be more inspired by and proud of these girls.”

She added, “That’s enough. “The tide is turning.”

The appeals court denied West Virginia’s request to enforce its Save Women’s Sports statute, which requires schoolchildren to compete based on their biological sex, upholding a February 2023 injunction and returning the case to the district court.

Pepper-Jackson, 13, first identified as a girl in third school and began taking puberty blockers in 2010 after being diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The teen is also undergoing “gender-affirming hormone therapy,” according to legal records.

According to U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Toby J. Heytens, requiring Pepper-Jackson to play against males would “expose B.P.J. to the same risk of unfair competition—and, in some sports, physical danger—from which the defendants claim to be shielding cisgender girls.”

“The defendants cannot expect that B.P.J. will countermand her social transition, her medical treatment, and all the work she has done with her schools, teachers, and coaches for nearly half her life by introducing herself to teammates, coaches, and even opponents as a boy,” wrote Judge Heytens, who was appointed by Biden, in the decision.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey promised to continue working “to protect women’s sports so that women’s safety is secured and girls have a truly fair playing field.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal represent both Pepper-Jackon and her mother, Heather Jackson.

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