Former high school wrestler and activist Mack Beggs has gone public with his harrowing ordeal trying to wrestle in high school as a transgender man. Beggs adds that he chose to share his story now in opposition to a flood of proposed state laws that would ban transgender athletes from competing in school sports.
Now 22, Beggs first attracted national attention in 2017 when a female high school wrestler sued to prevent him from competing in the sport. In Texas where Beggs grew up, the policy stipulates that transgender men–no matter how far along in transition–must compete in women’s sports. Beggs had lobbied to compete on the men’s team, but was denied by school authorities. He was just 17 at the time.
“I was in a very dark place,” Beggs told Yahoo News in a new interview. “I had to seek out help, and I’m so glad I did that. Mentally, it took a toll on me. I think we need to have resources in place for other [trans] kids who are in those positions.”
2021 has seen the highest number of anti-transgender bills filed in the history of the United States, according to the Human Rights Campaign. That includes bills in 30 states designed to block transgender women from competing in women’s sports, and bills that would require transgender men to compete with women. That statistic prompted Beggs to speak out.
“I think it’s disgusting,” Beggs said of the proposed laws. “I think it’s revolting and honestly appalling that they’re trying to pass all these bills at the same time. Sports are supposed to be an outlet for kids. The most important thing about sports is learning these life lessons and getting these tools in order to go through life.”
“If you are a transgender athlete and you have got to be checked medically, so if somebody doesn’t look like a woman, it’s going to be targeting queer and LGBT women, or nonbinary people, I just think that’s a huge issue,” he said before adding that he “wouldn’t want somebody to [physically] check my daughter if she was 14 years old. That’s hugely intrusive.”
Regarding his own experience, Beggs also said that his transition didn’t provide him an unfair advantage–something critics of transgender people in sports often cite as a reason for bans on trans athletes.
“I can say that I was biologically a woman, so technically there was no advantage,” Beggs explained. “And I made sure there was no advantage because when I was on testosterone, I took a hormone blocker on top of taking my hormones. So it wasn’t just my estrogen being depleted, but it was also the synthetic hormone testosterone that I was also putting inside my body that was also decreasing. I probably could have messed up my body in high school because of that, and I honestly don’t know what the biological factors are or what hormonal factors will do to me in the future.”
“It was a no-win situation,” he added of his experience being forced to wrestle girls. “It was just a struggle that I hope nobody else has to go through.”
In recent years, the battle over how to include transgender students in schools has intensified. In addition to the aforementioned bills that would limit transgender participation in sports, a number of other states have proposed so-called “bathroom bills” aimed at blocking trans students from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity.