At least 19 states now ban or limit the participation in sports of transgender athletes, who are at the center of a polarizing and politicized debate, even though only a fraction of them would be among the 8.5 million American high school athletes and colleges.
Bans on transgender athletes are being challenged in court, and advocates on both sides cite or point to Title IX, the landmark anti-discrimination law that has protected and helped girls and women since it was passed in 1972.
As the 50th anniversary of Title IX approaches, an overview of the debate:
WHO IS AFFECTED?
For the purposes of the sports debate, these are mostly transgender girls or women who have gone through puberty without hormone treatment and continue to have male hormones in their bodies. This leads to what critics say is a massive performance gap and unfair competition, although research on this subject is often contested and is still taking shape.
Many international sports now require athletes who wish to compete in female classifications but who have certain high levels of testosterone to take sex-confirming hormones for a period of time to be eligible. Perhaps the most prominent case concerns the South African star runner Caster Semenya, who decided not to take hormones and missed the Tokyo Olympics because of it.
As for the number of transgender athletes affected by state bans, there are no definitive numbers, although The Associated Press reports found that the restrictions were largely a solution in search of a problem.
WHAT ARE STATES DOING?
Most of the 19 states that have imposed restrictions on transgender athletes tend to vote Conservative. Some governors have vetoed bills passed by Republican-controlled legislatures, arguing that the laws are unfair to transgender womenwill leave states and their school districts vulnerable to lawsuits, and that no problem really exists. Indiana and Utah are among the states that have overridden their governor’s veto.
Transgender athletes in states with bans can then challenge in court or sit down. Some laws require what can only be described as invasive evidence for an athlete to compete; in Ohio, the proposed wording read “if a participant’s gender is disputed” a doctor should sign the athlete’s “internal and external reproductive anatomy” as well as testosterone levels and overall genetic makeup.
In other states, high school athletic associations allow transgender women to participate in women’s sports. This led to a court battle in Connecticut, where a group of cisgender high school athletes said allowing transgender athletes to compete deprived them of track titles and scholarship opportunities. Their attorney, Christiana Holcomb, said the rule “completely contradicts Title IX” and “reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women.”
The other side of the coin? A Florida lawsuit argues that the state’s ban on transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports violates Title IX.
WHAT IS THE NCAA’S POSITION ON ALL OF THIS?
Earlier this year, the NCAA said it would set aside its old policy – which was consistent across all sports in requiring transgender athletes to undergo hormone therapy – and abide by the rules set by the national governing body. of every sport.
The NCAA then decided not to adopt USA Swimming’s rules.that allowed transgender swimmers Lia Thomas of Penn participate in the national championships in March, where she won the 500 yard title.
CAN TITLE IX SOLVE THIS PROBLEM?
Title IX was written long before the debate over transgender athletes became such political football, even before Transgender tennis player Renee Richards sued for playing and certainly before Olympic champion Caitlyn Jenner transitioned.
The law’s historic clause – “No person shall, on the basis of sex” – is interpreted differently than in 1972. In 2022, the question essentially boils down to whether it includes the identity of gender. Under President Joe Biden, the Department of Education has made it clear that this is the case.
One year ago, the agency released a statement saying to “combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity” is its responsibility “to enforce the Title IX prohibition of sex discrimination.” It was unclear if anything more substantial was on the way.
In a analysisThe National Law Review said it is “clear that congressional action may be needed to provide a stronger foundation for these protections.”
Don’t Hold Your Breath: The only federal piece of legislation that attempts to clarify the issue was sponsored by a Republican and went nowhere in Congress. Democrats have broadly supported the Equality Act, which would enshrine many rights for the LGBTQ community but would not impact Title IX.
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