Texas State Champion Mack Beggs Speaks About His Experience As A High School Transgender Athlete

Photo Source: Mack Beggs

On February 25, Mack Beggs’ hard work and dedication paid off when he won the Texas state championship in wrestling. For most teen athletes, such an accomplishment would be met with smiles and celebration — and for Beggs, this was certainly the case. However, his victory also came with uproar and controversy that, up until now, has been virtually unheard of in the world of high school sporting events.

You see, Mack is transgender. And he won the girls’ division.

Of course, if he had it his way, things would’ve happened differently. Mack is very open about the fact that he’s transitioning from female to male, and he would have preferred to wrestle in the boys’ division. But the University Interscholastic League (UIL) rules very clearly state that athletes must wrestle in the division corresponding to their gender and that their gender is determined by whatever is written on their birth certificate. So Mack’s choices were to either wrestle in the girls’ division or not wrestle at all.

Despite the less-than-ideal circumstances he was faced with, Mack couldn’t give up wrestling if he tried. “I love the drive to win,” he says. “No matter who you put in front of me, I’ll go against them.” His urge to keep doing what he loves is so strong, in fact, that he’s been willing to sacrifice his own comfort to continue competing. “I was taking a hormone blocker for over a year. So that whole time, I had no hormones going through my body. I finally told my doctor that I couldn’t keep doing this, so we decided it was best for me to start taking a very low dosage of testosterone.”

Mack still doesn’t feel great taking such a low dose, but he’s sticking with it to stay compliant with UIL rules. He says that a common misconception that people believe is that he’s “pumping himself up” with steroids or that the hormones he’s taking give him an unfair advantage over his opponents, who he says are “no joke”. The reality is that he and his family communicated with the UIL to ensure that he was always below the limit for the amount of hormones he was taking. “I said, if I’m going to be competing, I want to do it the right way. [My opponents and I] were wrestling equally, at the same level,” he says.

While Mack acknowledges that his situation is a complex one, he says that for the most part, the kids aren’t the ones who are up in arms about the controversy. He speaks with nothing but admiration and respect when talking about both his opponents and his teammates. “My teammates have been so supportive,” he says. “They of all people understand what I’m going through. They work so hard every day, and they always push me to my limit.”

This teen is hardly the first to have to deal with controversial rules or laws affecting trans individuals, but the attention his particular case has received will hopefully get others in the combat sports community to start thinking about how they’d handle similar situations. Mack says that personally, he believes that trans athletes should be allowed to compete as the gender they’re transitioning to once they feel comfortable doing so. But as his case clearly proves, this issue doesn’t come with a black or white solution, especially when you consider the sex-based physical advantages and disadvantages we’re born with. While some promoters in the jiu-jitsu world have stated that they’d allow athletes to compete in the category corresponding with their identifying gender, it’s likely to be a while before a universal decision is made on the topic.

After Mack graduates high school, he hopes to continue wrestling and eventually fulfill his dream of becoming a coach. But for now, he’s content with putting the required blood, sweat, and tears it takes to be successful in his sport, all while inspiring other trans teens to stay true to who they are. Other trans males have reached out to him after hearing his story, and his message to them is something we could all benefit from remembering: “Just keep on going. Don’t let anyone stop you from doing something you love.”


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