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Mack Beggs, transgender wrestler who rose to prominence for competing against women: 'It took a toll on me'

Mack Beggs will turn 22 in just a couple of weeks, but he confesses that he’s already endured enough obstacles to last him a lifetime.

The former high school Texas state wrestling champion, who gained national media attention throughout 2017 and 2018 for participating in the women’s competition as a transgender man, said that in the last couple of years he’s been recovering from mental health struggles related to the experience.

“I was in a very dark place,” Beggs said, speaking of his freshman year of college after leaving high school. “I had to seek out help, and I’m so glad I did that.”

While competing at high school, in the Dallas area, Beggs — who was born female and transitioned to male — was sued by a parent of one of the female wrestlers he was competing against. Beggs wanted to compete against men, but a state ban limited transgender athletes to teams conforming with the gender on their birth certificate. The fight intensified in 2017, when a bill was introduced in the Texas state Legislature that would have effectively banned him from competing altogether. The bill passed the state Senate, but the Texas House never brought it up for a vote. The lawsuit was dismissed.

Mack Beggs
Mack Beggs in 2017. (Michael Stravato for the Washington Post via Getty Images) (Michael Stravato/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

“Mentally, it took a toll on me,” Beggs, who was 17 at the time of the uproar, said. “I think we need to have resources in place for other [trans] kids who are in those positions.”


Beggs spoke to Yahoo News as 30 states have introduced bills this year that would ban transgender girls from competing on girls' sports teams in public high schools. The Save Women’s Sports Act would also require transgender boys to participate in girls' sports. Overall in 2021, the highest number of anti-transgender bills in U.S. history have been filed, according to research by the Human Rights Campaign.

The bills come from conservative organizations with a history of targeting the LGBT community, such as the Heritage Foundation, the Alliance Defending Freedom and Eagle Forum.

“I think it's disgusting,” Beggs said. “I think it’s revolting and honestly appalling that they’re trying to pass all these bills at the same time.”

He added that “sports are supposed to be an outlet for kids. The most important thing about sports is learning these life lessons and getting these tools in order to go through life.”

The former state champion, who was featured in the documentary “Mack Wrestles,” about his high-profile battle to wrestle as a boy, argued that the legislation could end up hurting cisgender women, in addition to transgender people.

“If you are a transgender athlete and you have got to be checked medically, so if somebody doesn’t look like a woman, it’s going to be targeting queer and LGBT women, or nonbinary people, I just think that’s a huge issue,” Beggs said, adding that he “wouldn't want somebody to [medically] check my daughter if she was 14 years old. That’s hugely intrusive.”

During his rise to prominence in high school, critics alleged that Beggs was at an advantage because he had been taking standard low-dose injections of testosterone as part of his transition process. At some of his matches, he was met with boos from some members of the crowd.

Mack Beggs, right, and Taylor Latham
Beggs, right, wrestles against Taylor Latham during a 2017 tournament in Cypress, Texas. (Michael Stravato for the Washington Post via Getty Images) (Michael Stravato/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

“I can say that I was biologically a woman, so technically there was no advantage,” Beggs said. “And I made sure there was no advantage because when I was on testosterone, I took a hormone blocker on top of taking my hormones. So it wasn’t just my estrogen being depleted, but it was also the synthetic hormone testosterone that I was also putting inside my body that was also decreasing.”

Some experts say there is a lack of research into the side effects and risks of these treatments on transgender adolescents. Beggs further noted that there are even fewer studies on transgender athletes specifically using his methods.

“I probably could have messed up my body in high school because of that, and I honestly don’t know what the biological factors are or what hormonal factors will do to me in the future,” he said. “I just think, you know, let these [trans] kids live in their truth.”

But despite facing challenges from parents and outsiders, Beggs admits that his internal struggle was probably the hardest battle for him to overcome.

“You have to wrestle against girls — but you really want to wrestle against guys. You beat girls, but technically you are a girl, but technically you’re not,” the former wrestler explained. “It was a no-win situation. It was just a struggle that I hope nobody else has to go through.”

Beggs, who is currently attending Life University and working on a bachelor’s degree in arts and human development and social change, says that after working with a therapist and becoming more spiritual, he’s optimistic for the future. He wants to help other transgender kids who have faced similar issues, and his long-term goals include training as a gender therapist.

Mack Beggs
Beggs at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. (Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival) (Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

He’s still working on his sporting ambitions and is working toward competing in MMA, jujitsu and Muay Thai fighting, where he is permitted to fight in the male category.

“I do think it’s going to get better for trans athletes and sports,” Beggs said. “The next generation, they have a fire inside of them.”


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