In the wake of winning a controversial Texas state girls' wrestling title over the weekend, Mack Beggs, a 17-year-old transgender wrestler, spoke to the need to "stay strong" while also calling on state policymakers to "change the laws and then watch me wrestle the boys."
Beggs, who identifies as male, was dogged throughout the tournament by questions about whether his testosterone treatments made him too strong to wrestle fairly against girls. In an interview with ESPN's Outside the Lines on Wednesday, Beggs said he was unfazed by the boos that rained down on him en route to the 110-pound championship, which capped an undefeated season for the Euless Trinity junior.
"I just heard the boos, but I heard more cheering," Beggs told OTL. "Honestly, I was like, 'You know what? Boo all you want, because you're just hating. You hating ain't going to get me and you nowhere, and I'm just going to keep on doing what I've got to do.'
"That's why I've always had that mentality. If you're going to be negative, you know, whatever, that's not going to faze me."
Beggs, who says he has been taunted with slurs such as "f----t" and "it," cited the testosterone as a reason for the boos, as well as ignorance and a lack of understanding on the part of his critics.
"I mean, I've been winning before when I didn't have testosterone, but now that, you know, I'm actually winning winning, people want to go crazy," Beggs said. He added that some people "just automatically want to call me a cheater."
"Like that kind of makes me feel like they don't care about my training or the work that I put in," he continued. "Because I've been to [state] twice. And it's not like I'm just doing this because I want to like call myself a boy and just dominate all these girls. What do I get out of that? I don't get anything out of that."
Given the choice, Beggs said he would "definitely" want to wrestle boys, "because I'm a guy. It just makes more sense."
The University Interscholastic League, which oversees athletics in Texas public schools, enacted a rule on Aug. 1 that required students to wrestle against the gender listed on their birth certificates. So Beggs faced Chelsea Sanchez for the 110-pound weight class title on Saturday, beating her 12-2 to improve to 56-0 and earn the championship.
In the event the UIL were to amend its rules and allow him to wrestle against boys next year, Beggs said he is not concerned by a step up in competition.
"Boy's wrestling is hard. It's really, really hard. But I'll do it. If it means wrestling with the guys, I'll do it," he said. "It doesn't invalidate how I wrestle and how my technique is. If I get beat, I get beat. I just didn't train hard enough. I didn't work hard enough."
Beggs reached this year's state tournament after two of his opponents at regionals forfeited, including one who bowed out in the finals. Beggs said he spoke to the girls afterward and "they didn't want to forfeit."
"Their parents made them forfeit," he explained. "And I was like, 'Are you being serious?' Like you're going to let ignorance take over your daughter wrestling no matter who it is?"
In light of the forfeits, Beggs said that given the opportunity to repeat any of his wrestling tournaments this season, he would go back to regionals, "because I would want it to be way different. I feel like I did not earn that regional medal."
Beggs said there were moments during his teenage years that "got pretty dark," including in seventh grade, when he contemplated suicide.
"I don't think I've ever told anyone, but I would feel like I need to kill myself sometimes. But I was like, 'No, nah, I can't do that.'"
His advice to those who might be afraid to go through what he has gone through: "Don't give up. Because as soon as you feel like you're going to give up, you've already lost."
"You just have to stay strong," Beggs added. "There's going to be sucky days. There is going to be sucky days, believe me. ... There's always going to be another day. There's always going to be another week. You've just got to keep on rolling."
Asked if he has found his purpose, Beggs replied that he wants to be an advocate for kids who are transgender and "live my life how I want to."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.