A Connecticut policy allowing male trans athletes to compete in girls' sports is facing impending action by the US Department of Education. The US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has determined that the policy violates Title IX, the federal civil rights law guaranteeing equal educational and athletic opportunities for women.
This action would include a withdrawal of federal funding for Connecticut schools. Despite this, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) has said that they would not comply with the ruling.
CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini issued a statement that "Connecticut law is clear and students who identify as female are to be recognized as female for all purposes — including high school sports. To do otherwise would not only be discriminatory but would deprive high school students of the meaningful opportunity to participate in educational activities, including interscholastic sports, based on sex-stereotyping and prejudice sought to be prevented by Title IX and Connecticut state law."
The US Department of Education decision is in response to a complaint brought by high-achieving young track athletes Selina Soule, Alanna Smith and Chelsea Mitchell. In 2019, they complained that the males competing against them enjoyed unfair physical advantages, despite their identifying as female. This stripped the girls of positions in competitions and potential consideration for sports scholarships.
The three girls also filed a federal lawsuit seeking to prevent trans-identifying males from competing in girls' sports. That claim is still ongoing.
Soule was outrun in the 55 metre sprint by two trans students, Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller, both of whom were born male. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference allowed them to compete in the female category simply because they "identified as" girls.
This prevented Soule from qualifying for a track event at which her performance would have been seen by college coaches on the look-out for talent.
In effect, her college athletics opportunity was stolen by a mediocre male who was not competitive enough to win medals against other males. CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini described this as part of his organisation's "committ[ment] to equity." However, the US Department of Education disagreed, holding the policy in violation to Title IX.
Soule did not accept the injustice, preferring to stand up for girls across Connecticut who have been losing sporting opportunities. Yearwood and Miller frequently outperformed their female competitors, winning a combined 15 girls' state championship races since 2017.
"There have been countless other female athletes in the state of Connecticut, as well as my entire indoor track team. We missed out on winning the state open championship because of the team that the transgender athlete was on."
The decision has teeth: the US Department of Education said that it may seek to withhold federal funding over the policy, which allows male athletes to identify their way into the female category, thus turning it into a unisex category and destroying women's sport.
It said that the trans inclusion policy "denied female student-athletes athletic benefits and opportunities, including advancing to the finals in events, higher level competitions, awards, medals, recognition, and the possibility of greater visibility to colleges and other benefits."
The American Civil Liberties Union's lawyers for male athletes who want to compete against girls argued that taking cross-sex hormones somehow reverses the effects of male puberty, such that the males are on an equal footing with girls. Such pseudoscientific claims have been comprehensively debunked.
According to Transathlete.com, Connecticut is among the 18 states that allow male high school athletes to simply declare "I'm a girl" to leave the boys' category and compete against girls. Other states have adopted polices barring male participation in girls' sports. Recently, Idaho became the first to pass a law banning males who identify as transwomen from competing in women’s sports.
The girls' attorney, Christiana Holcomb, said "Forcing girls to be spectators in their own sports is completely at odds with Title IX...Connecticut’s policy violates that law and reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women."
The outcome of the Federal lawsuit remains to be seen, as is the US Department of Education's reaction to CIAC's refusal to comply. Let's hope the judges restore strict sex-segregation of sports so that girls can compete on a level playing field.