On Wednesday, three families sued to stop transgender athletes from participating in girls sports in Connecticut, as reported by the Associated Press. The families, which all have a cisgender female cross-country runner enrolled in a Connecticut high school, filed the federal lawsuit with representation from the Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBTQ conservative organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center designates as a hate group. They filed suit against the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference as well as the boards of education in Bloomfield, Canton, Cromwell, Glastonbury, and Danbury. Connecticut is among the few states that currently have trans-inclusive policies for student athletics.
“Forcing them to compete against boys isn’t fair, shatters their dreams, and destroys their athletic opportunities,” one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Christiana Holcomb, said. “Having separate (boys and girls) sports has always been based on biological differences, not what people believe about their gender, because those differences matter for fair competition.”
This lawsuit certainly isn’t the first time people have tried to enact transphobic and trans-exclusionary practices in the name of feminism and women’s equality. The ongoing bathroom bills consistently refer back to protecting women and girls, implying that allowing transgender women into women’s bathrooms or establishing unisex bathrooms for all is exposing women and children to sexual violence and harassment. In reality, transgender people, and especially transgender women, are particularly vulnerable to violence. In sports, Tennessee, Arizona, and Iowa recently introduced bills that would ban transgender athletes from participating in teams that match their gender identities.
Even in professional sports, attempts to micromanage and examine people’s hormones come up again and again, most famously with Olympic gold medalist Mokgadi Caster Semenya. Semenya’s testosterone levels have been subject to scrutiny both in the context of athletic regulations and in the cultural conversation. While dialogue tends to center on science—and interpretations of science—the question is really about controlling people’s bodies. Intersex, nonbinary, and transgender people deserve equal and fair access without jumping through humiliating hoops. Bypassing people’s gender identity and narrowing in on chromosomes and hormone levels strips all people, cisgender, transgender, and intersex, of their dignity.
The Connecticut suit focuses on two transgender seniors, both girls of color, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, who are also both sprinters. The ACLU will represent both teens in court.
ACLU attorney and deputy director for Trans Justice with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project Chase Strangio emailed a written statement on the suit to Outsports, noting, “Today’s complaint filed in Connecticut targeting the inclusion of transgender girls in girls’ athletics and specifically naming Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood is a dangerous distortion of both law and science in the service of excluding trans youth from public life.”
“I have faced discrimination in every aspect of my life and I no longer want to remain silent,” Miller said last year. “I am a girl and I am a runner. I participate in athletics just like my peers to excel, find community, and meaning in my life. It is both unfair and painful that my victories have to be attacked and my hard work ignored.”
Why do sports matter so much? For some students, excelling in sports can lead to higher education opportunities, scholarships, and maybe even a professional career. Sports are also a chance for high schoolers to socialize, build character, and engage with their peers outside of the classroom. Studies show that transgender students experience higher rates of bullying, harassment, and depression, and are even more likely to drop out of high school than their cisgender peers. If participating in sports may help transgender youth feel accepted, celebrated, and welcome in their school, that’s worth more than any medal.
“Efforts to undermine Title IX by claiming it doesn’t apply to a subset of girls will ultimately hurt all students and compromise the work of ending the long legacy of sex discrimination in sports,” Strangio said.
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