Insufficient data to support trans athlete bans, geneticist says

Dr. Eric Vilain says exclusion only furthers sports inequities

April 17, 2023

IN THE NEWS: Over the last three years, 19 states have enacted laws banning transgender athletes from participating in school sports. The bans, backers say, are about fairness and ensuring an even playing field, especially for girls.

NPR logoUCI Health pediatric geneticist Dr. Eric D. Vilain, who spoke on NPR’s “All Things Considered” about the laws, said there is insufficient data to support them.

“There are all sorts of advantages coming into play for athletic abilities — their genetic advantages, metabolic differences, physical characteristics, height, for example, and all the socioeconomic access to better nutrition, better coaching, better training equipment. Are all of these differences that provide some advantages dwarfed by the fact of being [a] trans athlete? We simply don't know.”

Vilain is a geneticist with UCI Health Genetic Evaluation, Testing and Counseling Services and a professor in the Division of Genetic and Genomic Medicine in the UCI School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics. His clinical and research interests are on the differences of sex development and medical genetics. He has published a large body of research on sex differences in the brain, the biology of sexual orientation and gender identity. The journal Nature has described him as “one of the world’s foremost experts on the genetic determinants of Disorders/Differences in Sex Development.”

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