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South Dakota’s Valiant Defense of Middle School Sports

Kristi Noem, famed part-time politician and full-time idiot is in the news again. It’s not for forcing middle schools to convert to Christianity, gifting a narcissist with a scale model of their head molded onto Mount Rushmore, or spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on an ad campaign letting the world know South Dakota is on meth. This time, she’s defending middle and high school sports from the trans people who would destroy them.

There might be some misconceptions here, so let’s clear this up right away: some news organizations are rolling with headlines like “Kristi Noem rejects signing transgender sports bill”, which is true, but super misleading. Noem didn’t reject the bill because it would harm trans people, she rejected it because it included college sports, and Noem figured the state would get assblasted by the NCAA if the state tried to contend with their regulations. If that went south, she could be responsible for depriving fans of the most boring rivalry in college sports, which would be a harmful addition to her resume, currently an endless stream of back-to-back fuckups.

But this isn’t about Noem. I could fill an entire vellum tome with screed about the governor of my former homeland (and, for the next few paragraphs, I will). I could complain on end about how she won the highest seat in the state because its genius inhabitants think she’d be real hot on a cow. Kristi Noem is the person in this headline because while the Republican Party bet big on the worst of Trumpism and lost, she did the same and won big. 

In a fractured country where most people now have reliable internet access, we’re still learning how to deal with the consequences of bringing an international audience to rightfully-ignored places like South Dakota. To me, Kristi Noem is a run-of-the-mill South Dakota idiot, totally unremarkable in a lineup of her kind. But the country at large isn’t used to this kind of powerful dummy, so she’s been able to accumulate one hell of an audience of world-class stupids.

Every time I click on a tweet about some dumb shit she’s done, like magnificently fucking up the state’s covid response through a strategy known as “do fuck all”, the top replies are from jokers with fish pics from all over the country lamenting the fact that their governments give a shit and wishing they could live in a state where they’d have a chance to die immediately like the free Americans they are.

Before Donald Trump, Kristi Noem was South Dakota’s problem. But now she’s our problem. She’s manifested the entirety of the Trump doctrine and worked her hardest (rare set of words) to earn an important seat on the MAGA dais. Before Donald Trump, Kristi Noem had no political agenda – now, she’s borrowed his. 

At his first rally (why?) since leaving office in January, among other nonsense, the former President said, “Young girls and women are incensed that they are now being forced to compete against those who are biological males”.

It’s an important issue to Donald Trump and his cronies. All over the country, the liberal trans agenda is opening the door for big-muscled, penis-swinging, roid-raging MEN to put on a wig, mark “female” on the sign-up form, and destroy every legitimate female at every sport 9th grade can offer.

They might chastise me for this argument (if they were among the five people who read this page). It’s about biology, they’ll have you know. Biological men have certain natural athletic advantages, and because of that, pitting men against women on the ball field is unfair. We’ve gelled with that idea for most of history, and it’s fair – men and women of comparable skill and experience levels aren’t usually a match against one another in sports. 

And so, the worried MAGA fans argue, if we allow biological men (people assigned male at birth) to identify as women and biological women (you get it) to identify as men, we’re opening the door to a world where men can sign up for women’s volleyball in the interest of absolutely destroying the competition. That’s unfair to our daughters.

But sports are the death knell of progressive gender politics, because they’re almost always either the most slippery of slopes or the fringiest of fringe cases. For most people, they’re totally unrelatable. And to argue that “girls and women are incensed that they are now being forced to compete against those who are biological males” is to unimaginably overestimate the number of young people who identify as trans and, within that category, the number of trans people who give a shit about sports. Even then, how many of those sports-minded trans youths would be daring enough to sign up for a spot on the team knowing this attitude is the one they have to contend with?

I’m not here to argue whether or not trans girls and women should be able to play on all-female sports teams. I’m not an expert and also I don’t care. But this issue is the definition of crossing that bridge when you come to it. Most Americans will not play on a sports team with a trans person. Most Americans will not have a child who plays on a sports team with a trans person. You’ll probably never know someone who has played on a sports team with a trans person. I acquiesce, you’ll probably hear about it happening on Facebook in a post beneath an article about ten million children being kidnapped by supergenius sex traffickers a week.

But, somehow, despite this being an issue next to no Americans will ever deal with, we all give a shit about it. It’s a real gotcha issue. South Park had a whole arc about it. It was dumb.

Some Noem stans out there (gnoems?) might have a gotcha of their own for me: if it doesn’t matter, then who cares if this ban goes through? It won’t affect that many people.

It matters for us for the same reason it matters to them: this is a symbolic assault. It’s a legal and easily sanctionable way to let trans people know that they are not welcome. This is not where we’re at because it’s a pertinent trans-related issue. We’re here because this is the easiest fight for anti-trans folks to have and win.

That this even made it to a legislative session validates the idea that powerful people think that trans people have to be responded to, that they pose a threat, and that we should legislate potential unfairness before it happens because we assume trans people will be responsible for it. A single trans girl wanting to play on a girl’s soccer team is so potentially damaging, so unimaginably awful, that a state government otherwise busy with mowing down pedestrians thought it was worth banning based on the idea alone.

This is shitty, and a waste of time. But we’ll have to get used to it. Noem (or Trump-Noem) 2024 is coming, and it’s gonna suck ass.

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