Title IX turns 50, women’s sports wrestle with trans athletes

When Congress enacted Title IX 50 years ago, there was little debate about who qualifies as a female athlete. How times have changed.

The landmark anti-discrimination law, which marked its 50th anniversary on Thursday, has become mired in a legal and political battle over the future of academic sports as trans athletes increasingly apply to compete in the women’s and women’s fields. tug of war. Dilemma: Will progress in trans rights threaten the achievements of the women’s movement over the past five years?

“Title IX promises a lot to women: a level playing field, a chance to excel in college, and skills that apply to all areas of life,” said Christiana Kiefer, senior advisor to the Alliance for Defending Freedom (ADF). “But all of this is threatened by the unscientific notion that men can be women.”

Complicating the debate, Title XI’s anniversary celebrations took place during Pride Month, adding to growing tensions between the gender identity movement and women on both sides of the political aisle who advocate for women’s opportunities through single-sex movements.

Many defenders of the 1972 law argue that allowing biological males to play in women’s track and field is exactly what Title IX is designed to avoid: female athletes being pushed in favor of males, in which males are considered females.

Title IX of the Education Amendments prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded academic programs. It is credited with sparking a boom in girls’ high schools and college sports.

“Before Title IX, only one in 27 girls was involved in sports. Today, two in five do,” said the right-leaning Independent Women’s Forum. “Despite this progress, female athletes are being marginalized to make room for men. It’s not right and it’s not fair. It’s time to take Title IX back.”

Advocates of trans athletes take a completely different view: They argue that Title IX protects women from discrimination, and that should include trans women.

In their legal filings, both the ACLU and the human rights movement have accused the conservative state of violating Title IX by passing laws that prohibit male and female transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports. A lawsuit filed last month by the ACLU of Indiana on behalf of a 10-year-old softball player alleges that the state’s newly approved law violates Title IX, as well as the Equality Constitution’s protections.

“When misinformation about biology and gender is used to bar trans girls from school sports, it amounts to the same form of sex discrimination long prohibited in Title IX, the law that protects all students – including trans — based on sex, it denies the Constitution’s commitment to equal protection of the law,” said Indiana State Law Director Ken Falk of the ACLU.

In the ACLU’s corner is the Biden administration, which has begun adding “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the official definition of gender, overwhelming the Trump administration’s efforts to limit the scope to biological sex.

For example, the Department of Education now states that “recipient institutions receiving departmental funds must conduct their educational programs or activities in a non-discriminatory manner, free from discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The definition is supported by Democrats and LGBTQ advocates, including prominent female athletes such as Team USA football star Megan Rapinoe, who says the uproar over trans athletes and fairness is greatly exaggerated.

Ms. Rapinoe credits Title IX with giving her the opportunity to earn a scholarship to play football in college. She also called herself “100 percent trans-inclusive” in the women’s movement.

“Show me evidence that trans women get scholarships for everyone, dominate every sport, win every championship. I’m sorry, it just didn’t happen,” Rapinoe told The Times in an interview on Sunday. Magazine. “So we need to start with inclusion, period. As things go, I’m confident we can fix this. But we can’t start in the opposite direction. That’s brutal. It’s just disgusting, frankly.”

growing influence

Transgender athletes may not win all championships when they compete, but their influence is growing. In March, swimmer Leah Thomas became the first male athlete to win an NCAA Division I women’s championship, and hurdler CeCe Telfer three years ago became the first to win a Division II championship.

At least two male-born athletes compete in the women’s competition at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics – New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard and Canadian archer Stephanie Barrett – while Chelsea Wolfe is a backup for the US BMX freestyle team players.

And that doesn’t include college and high school athletes flying under the media radar.

In an ADF news conference Wednesday, Idaho State University track and field athlete Mary Kate Marshall said she had twice lost to a male athlete against a female athlete. Idaho passed a Women’s Sports Equity Act in 2020 that could prevent male athletes from competing, but was immediately put on hold by a court injunction.

“When I lost to another woman, I thought she was training harder than me, and that pushed me to work harder,” Ms Marshall said. “But losing to a man feels completely different. It makes me feel that no matter how hard I try, it doesn’t matter how hard I work and how hard I work.”

Such competitions could deter female athletes from seeking to compete in college, she said.

“If I knew in high school that I couldn’t win or had to compete with men, I might have quit sports altogether, and I’m sure other female athletes feel the same way,” Ms Marshall said.

Former Connecticut high school track star Alana Smith tells how she lost to a male-to-female trans athlete, one of two athletes who would go on to win 15 state championships and set 17 records.

“Deep down, I knew I had no chance of winning, despite hours of training and personal bests in every event. I was beaten before I even hit the track,” Ms Smith said of her His father was baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Lee Smith.

“I know it’s not fair to me or any of the other girls in the state open,” she said. “It’s hard to ignore the physical differences between us when we’re on the starting line. We know the result before the race even starts.”

Eighteen states have passed laws targeting male-born competitors in women’s sports. Last week, the International Swimming Federation banned such athletes from competing in elite women’s competition unless they completed gender reassignment treatment before puberty.

Polls find that most Americans favor such restrictions: A Washington Post/University of Maryland poll last month found that 55 percent of respondents oppose allowing trans women and girls to compete with other women and girls in high school sports. Girls compete, and 58 percent oppose college and professional sports.

But Ms Rapinoe said critics and skeptics needed to look at the big picture, including high suicide rates among trans youth, and remember that winning isn’t everything.

“I also encourage people who are afraid that someone will have an unfair advantage over their children to really step back and think about what we’re actually talking about here,” she said. “We’re talking about people’s lives. Sorry, you A kid’s high school volleyball team isn’t that important. It’s no more important than any kid’s life.”

Meanwhile, Ms Marshall warned that Title IX benefits could be effectively wiped out if female athletes are replaced.

“Maintaining Title IX protections is as important to future generations as it is to past generations,” she said. “If we don’t support women’s sport now, there may be no women’s sport in the future.”

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