This week three female athletes from Connecticut filed a federal discrimination complaint with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. Citing Title IX, the girls say it’s unfair they have to compete against transgender girls who were born male.
“What we are asking for is a return to fairness, and anything that allows a biological male to come into a women’s sporting event and take away their medals or their podium spots or their opportunities to advance or earn college scholarships is unfair,” explains Christiana Holcomb, of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed the complaint.
The case was borne from the success of Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood who identify as female but were born in boy bodies. Connecticut is one of 17 states that allows athletes to compete as the gender with which they identify, rather than that of their birth.
In Texas, it’s different.
Last year, Trinity High School junior Mack Beggs won a Texas state wrestling championship – his second in two years.
The 110-pound grappler was born a girl but competed as a 17-year-old transgender boy who took testosterone to help with his gender transition. Texas high school interscholastic rules prohibited inter-gender competition and insisted students compete as the gender on their birth certificate.
So even though Beggs wanted to wrestle against other boys, he wasn’t allowed.
That prompted lawsuits from parents of female competitors and a regular chorus of boos for Beggs when he won … which was all the time in his undefeated junior and senior seasons.
The Connecticut story is different than Texas, of course, inasmuch as the former allows its athletes to choose a gender for competition whereas Texas explicitly forbids it.
The commonality is a raging national debate on gender that disallows any of these athletes from enjoying the fruit of their athletic accomplishments. And there is something else …
In being allowed to compete as girls, Miller and Yearwood’s experience is in keeping with a reasonable interpretation of a 2016 Obama Presidential edict “directing schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms and other facilities that match their gender identities.”
Beggs’ tale is closer to what the nation can expect from a recent Trump directive to ignore Obama’s federal rule, and let states decide how to handle transgender issues in schools from the bathroom and to the wrestling mat. Last month the Trump administration went a little further when the Department of Health and Human Services released new rules to explicitly remove “gender identity” as grounds for sex discrimination.
For our small part, we don’t think there’s a statistically significant number of potential antagonisms to justify all the hysteria over transgender bathroom rights and responsibilities. And the United States Supreme Court seemed to agree with us a couple of weeks ago when it passed on an opportunity to rule on a case out of Pennsylvania.
Still, there’s more at stake in these cultural wars than at first meets the eye.
Obama’s rule, for instance, was challenged by 11 states in the U.S. District Court in … fittingly … Northern Texas. Whereas Obama told public schools they would lose federal education funding if they didn’t allow transgender students access to the locker rooms, restrooms, dormitories, etc. of their choosing … the states countered that the Constitution clearly delineates Congress as arbiter for all issues of federal funding.
Trump’s new rules likely changes the game, for the time being. But, since a third of states will continue to follow Obama’s directives on sports and bathrooms, these issues are anything but settled.
Obama’s Justice Department cited both Civil Rights Acts and Title IX to make their argument that they have authority to protect all citizens under the equal protection clause, and that discrimination on the basis of “sex” (as outlined in Title IX) extends to both “gender” and “gender identity.”
The last point is the crux of an argument at the heart of the aforementioned Connecticut complaint (Vermont also allows athletes to choose their gender identity).
Among other things, Title IX was intended to guarantee equal access to athletic programs for women. We think it would be ironic if liberal states – invoking Obama’s vision – removed barriers preventing men from competing in women’s athletic programs thereby blurring all gender protections the law intended to provide.
It seems to us that is a very real, if un-intended, risk in this ongoing Constitutional fight.