Transgender issues are a topic at the forefront in today’s society. A divisive matter arising from the trangendered, is whether transgender individuals should be allowed to participate in athletics as the gender they identify with, or if they should participate in athletics as their natural-born identity. There are many stakeholders involved, the athletes competing as their natural- born gender, the transgender athletes, administrators and policy-makers. Currently, there are no national policies which allows states and even local governments to implement regulations. This causes inconsistencies, inequity and an uneven playing field for athletes hoping to obtain both personal best performances and college scholarships. The issues of equal rights, fairness and competitive advantage are just a few of the hot button topics. Transgender athletes should not be allowed to participate and compete as their chosen sexual identity. It is a violation of Title IX policy and there are distinct advantages for a transgender athlete. Clear national policy needs to be defined and implemented going forward.
The first group of stakeholders are the student athletes competing as their natural-born gender (cisgender according to the Oxford Dictionary). These individuals do not feel it is fair for transgender athletes to compete with their chosen gender identity. Cisgender athletes contend transgender athletes have unfair advantages in competition. Natural born males are faster physically and conditioned differently than females, and natural-born females have longer endurance than males. Female athletes also believe this violates long-standing equal rights policies.
Three Connecticut high school track athletes have filed a federal lawsuit in regard to this issue. “Girls deserve to compete on a level playing field. Women fought long and hard to earn the equal athletic opportunities that Title IX provides. Allowing boys to compete in girls’ sports reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women under this law. We shouldn’t force these young women to be spectators in their own sports.’ (Press, High School) Title IX was enacted in 1972. It was created to end imbalances between men and women in athletics by creating equal access. Title IX ruled educational facilities that are federally funded cannot discriminate against students or employees based on sex. Title IX dictates those schools must provide equal treatment of the sexes in all parts of education, including athletics. The lawsuit contends Title IX means you compete based on your natural-born sexual identity (cisgender). Their viewpoint firmly believes Title IX and its provisions prohibit discrimination only on the basis of natural-born sexual identity and not on transgender status. They feel natural-born males who compete against natural-born females are violating the rules of Title IX. They are adamant Title IX was not enacted to include and protect transgender athletes.
This lawsuit argues allowing transgender males to compete as females provides an unfair advantage in sports competitions. If a male athlete who self-identifies as a girl joins a female athletic team, the lawsuit argues those self-identifying athletes have a natural competitive advantage.
The Connecticut athletes feel they have lost out on state records and even college scholarships due to the transgender athletes competing. Two biological males finished first and second in the 55-meter dash at the Connecticut high school girls’ indoor track championships. “A female competitor potentially loses the opportunity to compete in front of college coaches and the ability to gain scholarship opportunities is incredibly detrimental.” (Press, High School) Had they not completed, the girls would have taken the titles. “The complaint from Connecticut says transgender girls have been consistently winning track and field events and the policy violates federal protections for female athletes.” (Press, High School) The girls also feel demoralized because they are not in a fair competition. They feel they are not allowed a fair chance to prove they are the best, as it is known the transgender athlete will win.
Transgender athletes view this issue as a matter of equality. These individuals view participation in high school athletics as a right. They feel they should have the same opportunity to participate as other athletes. Transgender individuals do not believe they should be discriminated against for choosing their gender.
Transgender athletes feel they are protected by Title IX, they do not feel it solely protects natural-born females. The LGBTQ students believe they have the same rights as natural-born females to be free from sex discrimination in all activities, including athletics. “Discrimination based on a person’s gender identity, a person’s transgender status, or a person’s nonconformity to sex stereotypes constitutes discrimination based on sex.” (Transgender Female)
Transgender athletes also cite the mental health issues which arise from non being allowed to participate. The LGBTQ community believes denying these students the right to participate in sports as their chosen sex, can lead to anxiety, depression and puts them at risk for self-harm. They view inclusion as a preventive measure, “The most effective way to prevent them would be, from my perspective, through policy changes. Inclusive policies are necessary to advance equity.’ (Transgender Female) This community wants administrators need to create rules and policies to protect and aid transgender students in belonging and participating in all school activities, to ensure the transgender athlete’s mental health and wellness needs are met.
In looking at Title IX and its history, it was intended to protect natural born females and not transgender athletes. It’s basis is biological sex at birthb and not the altering of that state. The Justice Department recently filed a brief on this matter. “In Soule et al. v. Connecticut Association of Schools, Inc., et al., No. 3:20-cv-00201-RNC (D. Conn.), the Department of Justice stated Title IX’s prohibition of “sex” discrimination does not prohibit discrimination based on transgender status. In fact, the Justice Department believes allowing transgender athletes to participate might violate Title IX.” (Justice Department) The order believes courts, “should give the word its “ordinary, contemporary, common meaning” when Congress enacted Title IX in 1972”. When enacted, sex was defined solely as biological sex at birth, which does not include transgender.
Their view does have support. A July 2019 poll surveyed 2,200 U.S. adults on the issue of transgender girls. “Fifty-seven percent of U.S. adults said they agreed that transgender female athletes have a competitive advantage over cisgender female athletes, while 20 percent disagreed.” (Transgender Female) The study also showed the general public believes males are naturally stronger and faster than females.
Republican lawmakers in three states have proposed legislation to prohibit transgender athletes. The bills would not allow an athlete to compete in sports as the gender they chose to identify as. These bills have been introduced ahead of the legislative session for 2020. Their legislation would take away state and local funds from any school allowing transgender athletes to participate in their chosen gender.
Earlier this month, in Tennessee, State Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) introduced a bill (Tennessee House Bill HB1572) requiring schools which receive public funding ensure that students may only participate in sports based on the student’s biological sex as listed on the athlete’s “original” birth certificate. This bill, which is in the Tennessee State Legislature, would enact a law to impose career ending sanctions on school administrators who let transgender student athletes compete based on their gender identity. Their ruling would apply to both male and female athletics. Idaho Governor Brad Little signed into law the ‘Fairness in Women’s Sports Act’, House Bill 500 in March 2020. This legislation, the first of its kind in the United States, prohibits transgender athletes from competing in sports consistent with their gender identity; they must compete as the sex at the time of birth.
There is a large emphasis on the unfairness, especially males who transgender. It is shown they have a more distinct advantage. “People who are physiologically male at birth have myriad advantages on the playing field; differences in muscle mass, skeletal structures, and hormonal biology persist after medical and surgical gender transition.” (Bloche) Even with hormone replacement the male testosterone is at a “higher level in transgender male to female athletes”. (Department) A Journal of Medical Ethics study stated healthy transgender male to female subjects “did not lose significant muscle mass (or power)”. (Knox) They are not truly a female, even with hormones and testosterone inhibiting pharmaceuticals. “Science demonstrates that high testosterone and other male physiology provides a performance advantage in sport, suggesting that trans-women retain some of that advantage.” (Knox) The science strengthens the arguments stating transgender athletes should not be allowed to compete in their chosen gender. “A boy who was born as a boy, but self-identifies as a girl has an advantage to girls who were born as girls.” (Tony)
The study revealed transgender males maintain their musculature through training. It indicates muscle memory helps the muscle retention. The study concluded opposite sex hormones given after the onset of puberty didn’t alter the effects of testosterone on the body. “Essentially, this study concludes that men who “transition” by taking testosterone suppressant can rejuvenate whatever muscle mass, strength, and power they may lose initially through proper training.” (Knox) This study shows you cannot really level the playing field between females and transgender males, the transgender male to female athlete will biologically have a competitive advantage that cannot be significantly altered. There are no regulations on how low the testosterone level has to be in a male who transgenders to female, furthering the advantage to males who identify as females.
Currently, the rules and regulations for transgender athletes are not in sync and take many sides and approaches. There are eight states that have policies dictating the student athlete must play on a male or female sports team based on the sex on their birth certificate. Three other states, Missouri, Georgia, and Washington State, are all considering similar legislation. Two states make exceptions based on how far along in the process of transgenderism an athlete is, and others decide on a case by case basis. Three states allow the athlete to choose the sex they want to compete as in athletics, while many ignore it and have no policies. A few states allow each school district to make its own regulations.
The transgender debate has negative consequences for cisgender male and female athletes even before competition begins. The transgender athletes may take the place on a team from a cisgender athlete. This may be due to competition or schools that may feel forced to take the transgender athletes side to avoid the perception of discrimination.
National regulation will eliminate the inconsistent policies and allow for fair athletic competition. In the current environment, females who are competing against males who transgender to females, do not have the opportunity to obtain important personal bests and are missing out on state competition and titles. These are vital for those females hoping to receive athletic scholarships. They are competing against females in states where transgender athletes are not allowed to participate, those females can appear to be stronger athletes. Scholarships are easily influenced by who makes the podium and wins the awards. National regulation will also protect the premise of Title IX as developed. National policy will keep the very definition of sex as a natural-born male and female, this should not be redefined or changed.
Although it may seem discriminatory, there needs to be policy against participation by transgender athletes. This will allow Title IX to function as enacted and allow athletes to compete fairly. Transgender athletes could still compete as their natural born gender, so they will have the same opportunity. The surge in recent bills and laws shows the desire to accomplish this. Without a national policy, there will be continued inequity, unfair competition and potential loss of titles and scholarships for some athletes.