Wednesday, July 03, 2024

Runner Nikki Hiltz Self-Identifies as a Trailblazer

Congrats to Nikki Hiltz for qualifying for the Olympics. That's an incredible feat. 

But this isn't really "bigger" than just Hiltz, as the middle-distance runner told NBC. No one ever said people who were assigned female at birth -- no matter how they identify -- shouldn't be allowed to compete against females. (If Hiltz were taking testosterone -- as a trans high-school boy who was wrestling against girls actually did -- then it would be an issue of fairness. Hiltz does not and competes solely against women.) 

So I question the utility of this pronouncement. Let me explain why. 

I know I've developed a reputation for being a bit ambivalent about the nonbinary identity, but only because I felt the whole idea was short-sighted: By saying you're neither or both genders it feels like you're only reinforcing gender stereotypes -- "I don't feel like a girl because I don't like to wear dresses" is inane -- so it always made more sense to me for so-called gender nonconforming people to make society accept them as WHATEVER kind of man or woman they wanted to be rather than being run out of their genders assigned at birth. (I thought "separate but equal" was constitutionally unsound, but what do I know?) 

Now Hiltz is reinforcing my qualms by describing herself as nonbinary AND transgender. If I were trans -- a group for whom I have nothing but empathy and support -- I would find this muddying of the water to be incredibly off-putting and counterproductive. The general public was finally starting to understand and support trans people (Jazz Jennings, Cailyn Jenner, Chaz Bono) in the wake of the late 2010s bullshit bathroom bills before the right cynically weaponized the issue, with help from activists' overreach and gender-identity word salad like this. 

Shorthand for confusion 

Wanting to be compassionate, I turned to Planned Parenthood to try to better understand someone who identifies as both and, sure enough, it confirmed that this is merely an act of self-indulgence. If Hiltz was born female and is trans, then logic would say he would be the preferred pronoun and he would compete against other men -- against whom he would fail miserably. But Hiltz goes by they/them, which is what nonbinary people typically do. 

While it's not Hiltz's fault that people don't know how to read, even members of the LGBT community are confused, so you can imagine the (completely unnecessary) outrage being stirred up in others

Yes, "transgender" is an umbrella term that can be used to describe anyone whose gender identity is different from the gender they were thought to be when they were born. But with nonbinary now a widely known term -- and one Hiltz self-identifies as -- why not leave trans for people born male who identify as female (and vice versa)? 

Bravo/a for making this all about themself, which to this old queer (still) seems to be at the heart of nonbinary-ism. (Nothing about Hiltz so far is disabusing me of that notion.) 

Don’t know anything about how Hiltz -- who, surprise(!), is in a relationship with a woman -- was raised. But I grew up playing with dolls and a Tuesday Taylor penthouse apartment and toy dishes and eschewed every sport except tennis, where I emulated Chris Evert (my idol) on (and off) the court. (I could purse my lips with the best of 'em!) And I'm very proud of the man I grew up to be. So in my heart I sincerely hope that Hiltz knows that there’s no shame in being just a garden-variety butch. 

But if nonbinary is who Hiltz is, could they at least do the LGBT community -- and particularly the transgender community -- a favor and not inflame the trans sports issue further by using this esoteric identity label? (Simply "nonbinary" is enough.) These headlines in 2024 are the opposite of helpful.


Randy Slovacek said...

I agree 100% on the Nikki Hiltz issue. The "being identified at birth as female" but then competing against women but calling themselves trans really threw me. I kept researching to try and find what I was missing.

DP said...

And once again, you have completely read my mind! Thank you so much for having the, lets call it common sense, to call this kind of rubbish out.