An Olympian (and Catholic mom) on the transgender threat to women’s sports

The recent Women’s World Cup soccer championship won by the United States National Team put the spotlight on women’s sports, and also issues surrounding women’s athletics like pay equality. But Rebecca Dussault, a former Olympian from Colorado and a Catholic mom, says there is another big issue regarding women’s sports that deserves more attention: transgender women (men who identify as women) being allowed to compete on women’s teams and in women’s competitions.

“To know you will always be at a disadvantage because someone else has some unacceptable physical edge over you, well this is what’s happening with women’s sport and transgender athletes,” Dussault said during a recent interview with Respect Life Radio. “And those (transgender) athletes have every right to play sports. They do not have rights, though, to trump all women’s sporting with their physical abilities that are beyond the scope of what’s reasonable.”

Dussault competed in cross country skiing at the 2006 Winter Olympics and was the 2010 ITU Winter Triathlon World Champion. She grew up in Gunnison, Colorado and is the mother to six children. In June, she was a guest on Respect Life Radio with host Deacon Geoff Bennett of Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of Denver. Dussault told Bennett that sports played an important part of a difficult childhood for her and helped shape her into the woman she is today.

“I have a passion for what sports can do for the human condition,” said Dussault. “We see women who have been involved in the formation, just the whole formative experience of sport and competition, going on to do really incredible things.”

According to, there are 17 states including Colorado that allow transgender high school athletes to compete without restrictions. Dussault says these policies are unfair to the female athletes and could lead to some girls dropping out of sports.

“It’s such a disservice to our girls who we have a hard-enough time keeping in sports,” said Dussault, who added participation in athletics has been shown to lower the risk of teenage pregnancy and drug use. “Sport is a remedy out of that. But if sport is going to be topped by this minuscule percentage of people who are going to insist on competing in a category that we can’t match as females, then there’s going to be a landslide of issues.”

In Connecticut, three female high school students recently sued the state’s athletic conference after two biologically male students switched from competing on boys’ track teams to girls’ teams and started dominating the events they competed in. According to news reports, one of the transgender athletes has already broken 10 state records.
The lawsuit alleges a policy allowing transgender athletes to compete against girls is a violation of Title IX – a civil rights law which prohibits discrimination based on sex for federally funded programs. The lawsuit alleges the policy discriminates against females because it denies them opportunities to advance in regional and state competitions because spots are taken up by the biological males.

“We need to ask female athletes: ‘Be unafraid to have a voice in this,’” said Dussault. “If we could even have the foresight to realize how bad and ugly this is going to get for women’s sport, we would have the backbone to say something. I will certainly say something.”
Dussault and Deacon Bennett agreed during the radio interview this is a not an easy topic to talk about, because compassion must be shown to people struggling with their gender-identity.

“I’ve thought about this. I’ve prayed about this. I thought: ‘How could we remedy this because?’…(because) people need to be experiencing creation and the Creator and part of that is so strongly felt through sport,” said Dussault.

Dussault mentioned that in cross country skiing, there would sometimes be national races that included international athletes, but only U.S. athletes were counted in the final results. Dussault said any compromise, however, can’t come at the expense of opportunities for girls. And she added Catholics must also speak up for what the Church teaches to be true about every person’s God-given dignity as a male or female, even if those teachings aren’t always popular in today’s society.

“I don’t care what kind of persecution, because you stand up for the truth. Wherever you find the truth being pressed down, you have to help the truth rise.”

To listen to the full interview:

Visit Rebecca Dussault’s website:

Featured image courtesy of Rebecca Dussault

COMING UP: Giving the best of yourself: Why the Catholic Church cheers for sports

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Have you ever wondered if God is a sports fan?

While many of us here in Colorado may want to believe that an orange sunset is a sign that God is a Denver Broncos fan, he’s probably not picking sides on Sundays.

However, in a recently released document from the Vatican, it’s clear the Catholic Church believes that God is at least a fan of sports and the ways they can enrich the lives of individuals and make the world a better place.

“Those who are part of the sports world exemplify virtues such as generosity, humility, sacrifice, constancy and cheerfulness,” Pope Francis wrote in a letter that was released with the document. “Sport is a very rich source of values and virtues that help us to become better people.”

The Vatican document, titled ‘Giving the best of yourself,’ describes the Church’s role and relationship with sports, potential dangers in the sports world, but also the many benefits that come from participating in athletics.

“Sport can offer us the chance to take part in beautiful moments, or to see these take place,” the document explains. “In this way, sport has the potential to remind us that beauty is one of the ways we can encounter God.”

The document was prepared by the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, and while it acknowledges much has been written and said about sports and the Church before, this is the first official Vatican document that pulls it all together, with citations from Pope Pius X (1903-1914) to Pope Francis (2013-present).

The document is addressed to “all people of good will,” and is meant to “help the reader understand the relationship between giving our best in sports and in living the Christian faith in every aspect of our lives.”

Giving the best of yourself

“To give the best of oneself in sports is also a call to aspire to holiness,” according to Pope Francis, who says sports can be a great instrument of formation and sanctification, especially for young people.

To be good at a sport it takes commitment, something often lacking in a “throwaway culture.”

“The Christian life resembles a marathon rather than a short sprint,” the document explains. “Sport helps us in this regard by teaching that it is worth embracing long-term challenges.”

For example, this July a World Cup champion will be crowned in soccer, capping a one-month long tournament, but the result of years and even decades of hard work, sacrifice and dedication.

For the athletes, they’ve probably been playing since they were young kids, proving themselves at various levels to earn a spot on their national teams.

For the countries, the qualification process takes a couple years to secure a spot from their region to play on the world stage.

Pope John Paul II once said: “We admire the feats of great athletes, who sacrificed themselves for years, day after day, to achieve those results. This is the logic of sport; it is also the logic of life: without sacrifices, important results are not obtained, or even genuine satisfaction.”

Not everyone will end up a winner though, because in sports, like in life, you don’t always get the outcome you want. However, those experiences can be equally valuable.

“Performing a sport always involves an encounter with failure, frustration and challenge,” the document says, but from that comes the courage “to keep going when the odds are stacked against you or your team, to try and do the right thing, morally and physically when you are losing badly (and) to hold the group together as a team when being seen as an underdog.”

Teamwork and Togetherness

“I also hope you can taste the beauty of teamwork, which is so important in life,” Pope Francis told a group of young athletes in 2014. “To belong to a sports club means to reject every form of selfishness and isolation, it is an opportunity to encounter and be with others, to help one another, to compete in mutual esteem and to grow in brotherhood.”

Sports has the power to bring together people of different backgrounds, whether it be on the same team, or bringing nations together at the World Cup and Olympics.

Or, as Pope Benedict XVI put it: “Sport can bring us together in the spirit of fellowship between peoples and cultures. Sports are indeed a sign that peace is possible.”

And because sport has the power to transcend differences, Christians have an opportunity to share the Gospel.

“Every occasion is good for announcing Christ’s message, ‘whether the time is favorable or unfavorable’,” Pope Francis wrote, quoting 2 Timothy 4:2. “Sport can open the way to Christ in those places or environments where, for different reasons, it is not possible to announce Him directly.”

Winning, but not at all costs

While the Vatican document says plenty about the best parts of sports, it also spends considerable time addressing when sports can be at their worst.

A “win at all costs” mentality can lead to corruption, cheating, abuse, violence, discrimination and a loss of dignity for individuals – all things the Church says she must work to protect against.

That doesn’t mean the Vatican views the final score as unimportant, as the document concludes with one last quote from Pope Francis.

“Challenge yourself in the game of life like you are in the game of sports… Don’t settle for a mediocre ‘tie,’ give it your best, spend your life on what really matters and lasts forever.”

Featured image by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images