Rights of Transgender Athletes Face Continued Threats After Roe V Wade Overturn

Mackenzie Greaney, Reporter

A landmark decision by the US Supreme Court in early June was struck down on a previous ruling known as Roe v. Wade. Advocates of women’s rights and LGBTQ rights feared the set back of progress made by decades. As a result, advocates found themselves seeking alternate legal protections for groups of at-risk individuals. This led to Title IX becoming the next legal battleground. Starting in 2020, Title IX faced several legal challenges that attempted to discourage transgender women from playing in women’s sports as well as asking female athletes to record their menstrual cycles before being eligible to participate in their sport.

Title IX is a law passed under the Education Amendments in 1972 to protect all sexes, ethnicities, and sexual orientations from harassment, prejudice, or discrimination by institutions that receive Federal funding. This includes most U.S. based public and private education institutions. This law has had greater effect for cisgender women, LGBTQ students, and transgender students that provides fair and equal access to facilities, activities, and institutional support.

The Transgender Flag is denoted by a central white line, two pink and two light blue leading in both directions. (Creative Commons License 0. No attribution needed. )

An example of Title IX’s effectiveness is a case filed in 2020 titled Soule et al v. Connecticut Association of Schools et al. The plaintiffs in this case were Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, Ashley Nicoletti and Alanna Smith represented by attorneys associated with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative Christian legal advocacy group. The defendants were the Connecticut Association of Schools – a groups of several schools in the state of Connecticut that formed the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference that established an inclusive policy around 2017 that permitted student athletes to participate in the sex-based sport of choice based on their gender identity as recognized in the student school records. The defendants were represented in court by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) with the transgender students later joining the suit as co-defendants.

The policy ultimately became the catalyst for the legal challenge by ADF on Title IX grounds citing competitive unfairness by allowing transgender athletes to participate in women’s sports thereby allegedly skewing the results of the track races. In essence, the same law that was initially created to protect marginalized groups from unfair discrimination was now under threat of being re-interpreted via the legal system as a way to be weaponized against them with the same type of persecution that it was meant to protect in the first place. In the lawsuit, the argument being presented by the plaintiffs suggested that transgender athletes competing in women’s track meets would allegedly compete on a level that is equivalent to the performance in men’s track meets due to the biological origin of the transgender athletes. However, as shown through evidence submitted by the ACLU, there was one race where the defendants came out on top of the plaintiffs, whereby at other times throughout the season, the plaintiffs defeated the defendants in other races that were held. As such, the perceived performance differential was not supported by actual race results.

US Supreme Court Building. (Mark Thomas via PixaBay )

I believe this case is formed on pointless and baseless opinions of gender identity. Exactly what defines being a woman? I know my definition is different from my mother’s, my grandmother’s or even my fellow classmates. My definition is inclusive – I don’t see gender as a sex-based identity. I was raised to be an independent person whom is not based on my gender alone. I’ve never thought myself to be more feminine than another female. Women are strong, both physically and mentally, often even stronger than we are credited for. We mother children, we go through physical changes monthly and we must work harder to prove ourselves. Women are not the stereotypes that have persisted in societal traditions for centuries on end. Women come in all different shapes, sizes and even skin tones. Yet we all share the same experiences in our modern society. That’s why that definition cannot be limited just to the assigned sex we are born with. Transgender women are women too, whether cisgender women like it or not.

The point being, it should not matter if athletes identify as trans, there is no disadvantage – perceived or otherwise – just room for improvement. To me, it sounds like the four girls that are plaintiffs in the case were competitively bested because they were cocky, and didn’t receive what they felt they were entitled to, so they’re trying to use the rule of law to overturn results they are not happy with – in the process hurting other transgender athletes. The female cis athletes are simply pawns who are being used by nefarious organizations whose goals are to delegitimize the recognition of the members of marginalized communities. 

The allegations in the lawsuit stated that the cis women athletes were at a competitive disadvantage in women’s track. This is strictly transphobic in every way. These cis women and the organization backing them are identifying trans women with their biological background. They are claiming their opponents are males and not the athlete’s chosen identifying gender of female. My belief is that if you believe men are faster and stronger, then you’re not working or trying hard enough. Take this as a challenge and opportunity to better yourself at your sport rather than throwing an unsportsmanlike tantrum. 

The bottom line is – the push against pro-trans policies need to stop. Title IX, in and of itself, does not physically harm these plaintiffs, and I surely know the only mental harm being done is towards the trans women themselves. In fact, we can even go a step further. Why keep sports segregated between the sexes? A sport ought to have universal competition that allows the true “best of the best” to shine regardless of their identity and sexual orientation. That way, it would eliminate any potential perception of “competitive disadvantage” because everyone would start off on a level playing field. Moreso, it would give us an opportunity to see past gender norms and create an inclusive society that genuinely looks past gender identity and focuses on the individual and their contribution to the community.

Although the case had strong backing from two powerful, polarized political groups, ultimately – the case was dismissed on procedural grounds. While this did not provide a definitive answer on Title IX, it also did not provide the coveted win that the plaintiff’s desired. They have filed an appeal – one that is likewise expected to fail due to the numerous precedents of interpretation, even going as high up as the U.S. Supreme Court, that have upheld the existing interpretation and protections of Title IX as originally envisioned. As such, unlike Roe v. Wade, which actively directed how abortion would be treated across the country on a Federal level, Title IX passively protects the people most at-risk for being systematically oppressed. And although losing Roe v. Wade is a step backwards for marginalized groups, other hard-fought protections continue to remain in place, even in the face of unwavering opposition that constantly tries to undermine their existence. Today, a law from forty years ago still provides equal and fair access to all individuals and that is a surely a cause to celebrate despite the challenges and attacks to our societal norms from seemingly every side.