Beth Stelzer walked into her first powerlifting match expecting to encounter a room full of individuals who were there to support strong women. Instead, a biological male who “identified” as a woman distracted from the competition by protesting throughout the event because he was not permitted to compete with the women.
As a result of the experience, Stelzer took action to protect women’s sports from transgender athletes.
Stelzer is the founder of Save Women’s Sports, an organization dedicated to protecting the right of every woman and girl to compete on a level playing field.
Stelzer joins “Problematic Women” to discuss President Joe Biden’s recent executive order that opens the door for biological men to compete in women’s sports.
Plus, Inez Stepman, a senior policy analyst at Independent Women’s Forum, joins us to talk about the Grammy Awards and why the blatant sexualization of women does not empower women and girls.
And as always, we’ll be crowning our “Problematic Woman of the Week.”
Listen to the podcast below or ready the lightly edited transcript.
Virginia Allen: As we celebrate Week Three of Women’s History Month, I am so pleased to be joined by Beth Stelzer, the founder of Save Women’s Sports. Beth, thank you so much for being here.
Beth Stelzer: It’s a pleasure. Thank you for having me and bringing some attention to this very serious issue we’re having.
Allen: It’s such a serious subject and one that we try and cover really closely here on “Problematic Women.” So, I want to begin by talking about your story.
Your organization, Save Women’s Sports, was founded to protect women’s sports from biological men who “identify” as women. Two weeks ago here on the podcast, we had Alanna Smith on the show to tell her story of being forced to compete against biological men in track and how that has affected her, how that’s impacted her as an athlete.
So, Beth, what is your story? How did you get involved in this fight?
Stelzer: First of all, let me just give it up to those girls in Connecticut. They are so brave and courageous for stepping up and taking this on their shoulders. That’s part of the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing, because it shouldn’t be up to young women like that. We should all be standing up, men and women, the like, to be protecting females.
My story—long story short—is, I’m a mom, wife. Just an average person who found sports a little later in life and fell in love with powerlifting, and really carved out time out of family time to train like two to three hours a day, five to seven days a week, just as much time in the kitchen, to get ready for this women’s state championships.
And when I got there, instead of this awesome welcoming into the community I was expecting, this male threw a disruptive protest during the entire event because he wasn’t allowed to compete in the women’s championships.
It just kind of threw me down this rabbit hole of realization of what’s really happening—basically, the erasure of women’s rights.
Allen: So you’re at this powerlifting competition. This is your introduction to the sport. And instead of it being the celebration of women and how powerful we are, instead there was this major distraction of a biological man saying, “I should be allowed to compete, too.”
Stelzer: Yeah, basically a temper tantrum, and I’m not going to stand for it. So, I got home, and I’m like, “This is not right.” And I couldn’t sleep at night thinking that. When I started researching online, all these people are getting harassed.
Allen: Beth, share a little bit more about that. About that experience of showing up at this powerlifting competition, expecting to be celebrated as a woman for your strength, and instead, seeing this man protesting, essentially, that he couldn’t participate in women’s sports. And then how that experience did lead you to found Save Women’s Sports.
Stelzer: How the experience [was] basically taken away from me was heartbreaking. It’s a small community of people, the powerlifting community, and I expected this welcoming event, and instead, it was just chaos. But it helped me realize what’s going on to women’s rights.
I got home and started researching how athletes are basically being silenced by cancel culture in this fear environment that these activists are creating. And so, I started savewomenssports.com as a way to compile information for people to see a source of the truth in this debate, and here we are making laws.
Allen: Oh, it’s so powerful. And as we chat today, I want to get into more of the weeds of what you all do as an organization. I know you all have been speaking out so boldly.
As we’ve seen President [Joe] Biden issue, now, two executive orders on this subject. Just last week, the president signed, it’s a sort of a mouthful, but it’s the “Executive Order on Guaranteeing an Educational Environment Free From Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Including Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.”
The order states that “all students should be guaranteed an educational environment free from discrimination on the basis of sex, including discrimination in the form of sexual harassment, which encompasses sexual violence, and including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
So, we can all agree, no one should be discriminated against. Yes, we can rally around that. But what exactly is this executive order saying, Beth? What does this mean for the future of women’s sports?
Stelzer: For the future of women in general, basically. What this order did was erase the sex-based protections that women have fought so hard to have. In sports, that boils down to Title IX, and we have not even had that for 50 years.
In places, we’re still fighting to enforce that, and now, with Biden’s order, erased that. And we’re saying that anyone is allowed to self-identify into the female category, and we all know it is not fair for males to compete against females.
We just seem to have turned this into some kind of partisan issue when it’s just basically common sense, and it’s sad to see that.
Allen: And what are those biological advantages that men do have over women in athletics?
Stelzer: Sure. The differences stem from the wide chromosome that males have, and these differences start in the womb, and they are cemented in puberty. So, there’s a lot of talk around testosterone and puberty and how that makes such a big difference.
But we see, even in the Presidential Physical Fitness Test that most of us in the United States do if we go to public school, the differences start at age 6 between boys and girls. This is a reality. It goes from bone structure to bone mass, muscle mass, heart size, lung size. That all contributes to the oxygen-carrying capabilities.
So many differences and not just how the bone structure like the Q-angle of hips. Women’s skulls are different. We are way more prone to concussions. There’s so many differences besides the realities of pregnancy, menstruation, menopause that we have to train around.
Allen: So, we often hear the argument that, … well, so many of these transgender athletes, they’re taking hormones, they’re taking puberty blockers, and that kind of levels the playing field. What’s your response to that?
Stelzer: There’s just this conflation that, somehow, the differences between the sexes can be mitigated and simply cannot be true. We see in studies … I think back to the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, we’ve seen, they did a yearlong study, and muscle mass did not change after hormone replacement.
And I think that’s a seriously slippery slope that we don’t want to put kids on that young. I think we can leave those kinds of decisions to 18 and older or adults. If we allow sports organizations to settle on this middle ground of allowing kids who transitioned, “pre-puberty transitioned” boys, to compete with girls, it’s a dangerous situation for everyone.
Allen: Because I guess you could see, in turn, that would mean there would maybe be a pressure, then, for younger people to transition even sooner, instead of waiting, like you said, until they’re 18 and can it be [done] more properly.
Stelzer: Yeah, that’s [what] the consensus of my team is. It’s a dangerous situation, and we do not want to put any pressure on our young people. We should be telling them the truth that the differences between the sexes should be celebrated, no matter how you want to identify.
There are differences, and it is not fair for males to compete against females. There’s an overall 10% advantages, but in my sport, the male advantage is 64%.
Allen: Wow. That’s huge.
Stelzer: Yeah, you’re talking … the women’s bench press champion. If you take one of the world, the women’s bench press champions, same weight, same age, male, they’re going to outlift them by over 200 pounds. Almost twice as much.
Allen: Yeah. There’s no competition there.
Stelzer: Easy to see in strength sports.
Allen: Yep. For sure.
Stelzer: But it goes beyond the fairness on the field. What about our bodily privacy in locker rooms?
Allen: Yeah. That’s a major concern for so many women and for myself, as I think about going to the gym and who’s in there.
Stelzer: We’re not trying to insinuate that all people who self-identify as being opposite gender are somehow a threat, but it opens up, it conditions girls to accept male bodies, and they will not know which one of those male bodies is the threat. And that’s why we have sex-separated spaces to begin with.
Allen: Well, when it comes to what Americans, overall, think of this subject, there’s a new poll out, a study done by Politico and Morning Consult. They polled nearly 2,000 registered American voters and found that 53% of those surveyed support banning transgender “women” from competing in women’s sports. Only one-third of those who were surveyed said that they oppose banning biological men from women’s sports.
Stelzer: I think you would see that statistic be a lot higher if they didn’t use that term “ban.” This is not a ban. We are not trying to prevent any kids from competing. We’re trying to maintain fair competition. And it goes back to telling the kids the truth. They can compete on the team of their biological sex, and they should understand why that’s necessary.
Allen: Well, I was really interested in that poll—to see that millennials, they were the highest as far as saying transgender athletes should not be allowed to compete in women’s sports. Fifty-six percent of millennials support banning biological men from competing in women’s sports, which was 6 [percentage points] higher than baby boomers and 15 [percentage points] higher than Gen Z respondents.
Were you surprised to see that millennials feel so strongly, more strongly than any other age demographic about keeping men out of women’s sports?
Stelzer: I think they’re the generation that understands. I think a lot of other generations don’t understand this conflation of language that’s happening. So, those millennials are probably the ones that understood the question the clearest.
Allen: Yeah. Now, that’s true. I think this is a subject that, … as a millennial myself, I certainly find myself talking about [it] a lot with friends. It’s something that we’re talking about, “OK, if this doesn’t stop, how will we handle this when we have kids?”
Stelzer: And we see social media possibly more, so we see how big of an issue that it’s getting to be.
Stelzer: And how serious it’s affecting our youth on there.
Allen: So, women’s groups. A lot of women’s groups, sadly, are not really standing up for women in the way we would like them to be.
The Women’s Sports Policy Working Group, they write on their homepage of their website that their mission is safeguarding girls and women’s sports and including transgender athletes. But Beth, is it possible to safeguard girls and women’s sports while including transgender athletes?
Stelzer: No, period. There’s no other way. Like we mentioned before, endorsing pre-puberty trans-ing of kids is, to me, it’s dangerous. And even to the activist, what they are doing is not good enough, because they didn’t fully allow males to “identify” as females.
I don’t think these activists will stop until they have totally demolished what we know as women’s sports. For example, the Olympics, everyone says, “Well, we’ve never seen a transgender person on the podium in the Olympics.” Well, the truth is, until 2015, they had to have surgery. They had to have their testosterone lowered for a certain amount of time, and that wasn’t doable by 2016.
So, this is the first Olympics where we really could see males on the women’s podiums. And it’s just the beginning.
Allen: At the state level, we are seeing some movement on this issue. Just last week, we saw Mississippi become the first state this year to sign legislation to ban transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports.
Stelzer: Yeah, and Idaho last year.
Allen: Yeah. So, talk a little bit about states like Mississippi and Idaho, and what they’re doing to really protect female athletes.
Stelzer: They’re setting the precedent. They’re doing what I would expect all of America to do, is putting their stake in the ground and protecting women and not complying with the lies. We need to stick with the truth here, and that’s what these states are doing.
I know that Gov. [Kristi] Noem in South Dakota will do the right thing and not cave under the protesters that are gathering outside of the governor’s mansion, calling for threats. It is ridiculous. We need to do the right thing here and not be bullied into silence.
And there are a handful of other states that are approaching their second committee hearings. So, once they get through the next chamber, there’ll be on the governor’s desk, too. And we won’t stop. We have several other states. We have 28 right now with over 50 pieces of legislation introduced this session alone.
Allen: Talk a little bit more about that—how Save Women’s Sports really plays a role on that state and local level to mobilize individuals, to be a voice, to work with their state and local leaders, to bring awareness, and to bring movement to pieces of legislation.
Stelzer: We really use our platform to try and draw attention, locally, to these hearings, and just help people know that their voice matters. Even as small as they feel, it makes a huge difference for them to come to these hearings and even sit in the crowd and say, “Yes, I agree,” can make a huge impact.
So, when we can’t find people to testify, I’ve been going to these states on behalf of the silenced women. I cannot tell people enough how they cannot fold under the pressure from these bullies, because that’s basically what they are, is childhood bullies. …
Allen: And when you say “bullies,” who are those individuals?
Stelzer: Activists, basically. People trying to compel our speech, trying to tell us that there’s no difference between men and women, and that we should be calling males females. And then that’s where all this conflation and confusion starts. That’s how we’ve gotten to this point.
Allen: So, ultimately, where do you see this debate going? Obviously, like we’ve talked about, we’re seeing a lot of movement on that state level, but is this an issue that you think we will see within the next couple of years potentially rise to the level of the Supreme Court?
Stelzer: Most definitely. That’s what the ACLU is threatening. They sued as soon as Idaho made their law. They were just on talk radio this morning on NPR, saying how they’re going to basically sue every state that comes along, but we’re ready to fight back.
It sometimes seems like a David versus Goliath-type battle, hundreds versus millions of dollars, but look at what we’ve done. And we all know how that story ended.
Allen: Beth, I do want to give you the opportunity just to share a little bit about these women that you work with, that you’re coming alongside and partnering with and championing, and really being a voice for, so that they can continue to compete and have the opportunity to win.
What are you hearing from them? And if you could, just maybe share one or two stories.
Stelzer: Well, the stories that mean most to me are the stories of the young girls. The mom that writes to me that says, hey, their daughter lost the championship because there was some boys playing on the other team, and they don’t even want to try again next year. Girls that don’t even come to the starting line, don’t even come to the game because they figure, “What’s the point?”
When we look at the cancel culture, my friend, Jennifer Wagner-Assali, who lost out on a world championship to a male, when she spoke out, was told by her sponsor who pays her team tens of thousands of dollars of gear that, “If you don’t stop speaking out, we won’t sponsor your team.”
That meant just not her, but the other moms and athletes that they pay out of their pocket to come to these events. They would lose their only help they have. It’s ridiculous, the fear and the lies, that the gaslighting that we see.
Allen: How can our listeners follow and support your work, because you are on the front lines of this debate and things are heating up? This is a really critical moment in history right now.
Stelzer: Yeah. We’d love for you to come to savewomenssports.com. We have links to the state legislation to check if your state has something that you can help work on. We have a “take action” tab. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join the team and help the fight.
Allen: Beth, thank you. We so appreciate your time today. Thank you for being on the forefront of this critical issue.
Stelzer: The Heritage Foundation gave me my first opportunity to speak up, and I will not forget that. It takes a “hands across the aisle” moment to get this done. Thank you so much.
Allen: Thank you.