The Next Lia Thomas? West Virginia Teenager Becomes Latest Biological Male To Dominate a Girls’ Sport

In nearly two years on her school’s track and field team, Becky Pepper-Jackson has beaten hundreds of adolescent, biological female athletes.

AP/John Bazemore, file
Lia Thomas of the University of Pennsylvania at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships, March 17, 2022, at Atlanta. AP/John Bazemore, file

The latest case of an individual who was born male but identifies as female dominating in the world of girls’ and women’s sports is an adolescent from West Virginia who began doing so after a court stopped the state from barring biological males from women’s sports. 

The student in question, Becky Pepper-Jackson, is a 13-year-old transgender girl from Harrison County, West Virginia, who successfully challenged the state’s 2021 law that barred members of the “male sex” from competing in sports leagues meant for members of the female sex.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals suspended the state law almost immediately after it was adopted after the student’s mother, Heather Jackson, appealed a district court ruling that upheld the law. 

The Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in the case, arguing that Pepper-Jackson had the right to compete on the sports teams that adhered to her gender identity. DOJ lawyers wrote that the government has a compelling interest in “ensuring that all students, including students who are transgender, can participate in an educational environment free from unlawful sex discrimination.”

Following the Fourth Circuit decision striking down the law, West Virginia’s attorney general, Patrick Morrissey, appealed the ruling on an emergency basis to the Supreme Court. In his brief, Mr. Morrissey and his colleagues noted that Pepper-Jackson, in her nearly two years on her school’s track and field team, had beaten hundreds of adolescent, biological females and displaced them from placing in local and state championships. 

The justices declined to hear the case or issue a stay on the Fourth Circuit order that struck down the law. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas wrote that they would have granted West Virginia’s emergency appeal. 

West Virginia is now seeking to dissolve the original court order that halted implementation of the law. One organization that has been involved nationwide in the effort to bar biological males from female sports, the Alliance Defending Freedom, filed a document with the Fourth Circuit on Wednesday describing Pepper-Jackson’s impressive record competing against biological females. 

“When you ignore biological reality and allow males to compete on girls’ sports teams, girls are harmed and denied athletic opportunities — even in middle school,” the organization’s senior legal counsel, Christiana Kiefer, said in a statement.   

The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case came at the same time as President Biden’s Department of Education proposed a rule that would bar preventing transgender individuals from participating on the sports teams — either designated male or female — of their choosing. 

The story of Pepper-Jackson is especially high-profile given the raft of legislation across the country that bars biological males from competing alongside biological females in sports. 

One former University of Pennsylvania swimmer, Lia Thomas, a transgender woman whose birth name is William, became a national rallying cry for those attempting to keep the biological sexes separate in sports following Ms. Thomas’s string of victories over competitors who were born female. 

Ms. Thomas has since graduated from college and no longer competes as a swimmer but has raised the awareness of transgender athletes competing in sports leagues that are designated for sexes other than their own birth genders.

The issue of transgender women in sports has ignited passionate arguments between some of the world’s most famous female athletes. 

In March, the star of the American women’s national soccer team, Megan Rapinoe, said in a tweet that “trans kids” are no threat to biological women and girls. Athletes should focus instead on “unequal pay, sexual abuse, and lack of resources,” she said. 

Around the same time, one of tennis’s most decorated players, Martina Navratilova, called a decision by World Athletics to ban transgender women from competing in track and field events a “step in the right direction.” Ms. Navratilova, who identifies as bisexual and is married to a woman, said the “best idea would be to have ‘biological female’ and ‘biological girls’ categories and then an ‘open’ category” for sports. 

Just this month, in an interview with Time Magazine, Ms. Rapinoe said legislators attempting to bar biological males from women’s sports are “trying to legislate away people’s full humanity.” Ms. Navratilova simply responded on Twitter by saying, “yikes….”


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