Mack Beggs made national headlines last month when he won the Texas girls wrestling state title.
Even though Beggs is a transgender boy, and is taking minimal levels of testosterone to aide in his transition, Texas state laws required him to compete as the gender listed on his birth certificate: female. That triggered a cascading series of controversies—some girls forfeited their matches rather than having to face Beggs, and he was booed by some in the crowd even after he won the title.
Given the current volatile political climate surrounding transgender rights, the reactions to Beggs are frustrating, but not surprising.
“You know, people thought he was going to be an LGBT activist.”
In Beggs’ home state of Texas, a bill that would ban transgender Texans from using the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity is being heard this week. Nationally, President Trump rescinded the Obama administration’s guidance about trans rights, allowing states more flexibility in how much—or how little—they accommodate transgender students.
On Sunday, Beggs addressed Trump’s actions in an exclusive interview with ESPN’s Outside the Lines.
“You know, people thought he was going to be an LGBT activist,” Beggs told ESPN. “That backfired on them. It just [sets] trans rights 10 times backwards. We’re just going to come back 20 times harder.”
Trump’s actions are particularly personal for Beggs, not only because of his own identity as a transgender boy, but also because his mother, Angela McNew, voted for Trump.
McNew has been supportive of her son’s transition, and in the past couple of weeks, has reportedly begun to wonder if voting for Trump was the right thing to do.
“I think on this journey [Trump] probably should step outside the box and think about all of these children and all of these people, that if you really look at them and the journey they’re taking, would you really put them in their birth certificate?” McNew told OTL reporter Tisha Thompson. “And honestly, who is going to be going by the bathrooms and checking I.D.?”
Beggs grew up attending an evangelical Christian church, and has been struggling to reconcile his upbringing with his current reality. His mother has defended her son to people in the church, some of whom have said she should go to jail for child abuse because God doesn’t make mistakes.
McNew is insistent that God didn’t make a mistake with Beggs — in fact, she believes that Beggs is fulfilling his purpose right now, as he fights for transgender rights on a national stage.
“I don’t want to cheat, I don’t want to cheat, that’s not something I do.”
Beggs, meanwhile, really just wants to wrestle — preferably against the boys, since he is a boy. (He wrestles against boys in USA Wrestling, and would wrestle against men in college due to the NCAA guidelines.)
He’s also adamant that he is not cheating. While he has been on testosterone since the eighth grade, he is taking a minimal dosage so that he still complies with Texas state laws, which consider testosterone a steroid if it exceeds a 6 to 1 ratio.
“I’m holding back because of wrestling,” Beggs said. “I want to be at a fair competitive edge with all of these girls. I know that they want to pursue wrestling careers, and I want to pursue a wrestling career, but I also want to do it fairly. I don’t want to cheat, I don’t want to cheat, that’s not something I do.”
In seventh grade, before he took any testosterone, Beggs admits that he did struggle with suicidal thoughts and self harm. But, while it still hurts to be called “it” or “fag” by people who watch him wrestle, and while he hates it when he sees parents force their daughters to forfeit matches against him (the girls want to compete against him, he says), the high school junior is much happier these days.
He has a few words of advice for other transgender children: “Don’t give up.”