Mack Beggs/Facebook

Mack Beggs Is A Boy. So Why Is He Wrestling Girls?

Beggs' victory at the state championships fuels the ongoing debate on the rights of transgender students.

This weekend Mack Beggs, a 17-year-old trans male from Euless, Texas, won the state wrestling championship in his weight class.

Beggs’ victory—even his participation—has been a lightning rod in the ongoing debate on the rights of transgender students. Last week, the White House rescinded Obama-era guidelines directing public schools to allow trans students to use facilities in line with their gender identity.

Among his fellow wrestlers, though, Beggs has been widely supported: “I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for my teammates,” he told the Star-Telegram. “That’s honestly what the spotlight should have been: My teammates.”

Beggs 12-1 defeat of Chelsea Sanchez put his school, Trinity High, in second place overall.

“The hard work that I put in in the practice room with them beside me—we trained hard every single day… That’s where the spotlight should have been on. Not me. All of these guys,” he added. “Because I would not be here without them. Hard work ethic pays off.”

Beggs has been taking testosterone since 2015 but must still compete in girls’ wrestling, per University Interscholastic League (UIL) rules mandating athletes compete as the gender on their birth certificate. (That’s counter to both NCAA policy and International Olympic Committee guidelines on trans competitors.)

“The thing is, we want to wrestle each other,” Beggs wrote on last week Facebook. “I feel so sick and disgusted by the discrimination—not by the kids, [but by] the PARENTS AND COACHES. These kids don’t care who you put in front of them to wrestle. We just want to WRESTLE. THEY are taking that away from me and from the people I’m competing with.”

He wants to compete against other boys, but is willing to follow the rules. It hasn’t been easy: At regionals last week, two opponents forfeited their matches rather than face him in the ring. And earlier this month, a wrestling parent filed a lawsuit to have Beggs banned from the girls’ division, claiming using testosterone exposes other wrestlers to “imminent threat of bodily harm.”

Both UIL guidelines and the Texas Education Code forbid the use of steroids, but make an exception if they are “dispensed, prescribed, delivered and administered by a medical practitioner for a valid medical purpose.”

Attorney Jim Baudhuin, who filed the suit, hopes lawmakers will remove that exemption. Ironically, he wants the same thing Beggs does: To have Beggs wrestle in the boys’ division.

“The overwhelming sentiment here is that Mack should be allowed to wrestle, but should be required to compete against the boys.”

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.