The hashtag “#savegirlssports” is trending this week to raise awareness and inspire action for fair competition in girls’s sports.
Izzy Case, a state-qualifying high school track runner in Colorado, has competed against a male “identifying” as a female. Although Izzy has been able to beat the transgender athlete by several places, she knows the competition could be drastically more unfair in college.
“I’m in high school now, so transgender females are not…completely developed yet,” Izzy said. “But at the college level, if boys are competing in female events, they are a lot more muscular.”
Joining the already extensive list of 2020 cultural tipping points, the issue of transgender males’ eligibility to compete in female leagues has led the Family Policy Alliance to initiate this grassroots effort to protect the opportunities for scholarships, trophies, and equality that exist for girls.
An organization dedicated to ensuring that religious freedom flourishes and families thrive, the FPA is mounting a campaign to respond to the ongoing legal battle in Idaho after the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, a two-year effort sponsored by Rep. Barbara Ehardt, passed in March. The bill, which makes sure only girls play in girls’s sports, is the first of its kind and came under fire within weeks when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) agreed to represent a transgender male athlete hoping to compete in women’s sports at Boise State University.
Idaho received federal support from the Department of Justice last Thursday, who said in their statement:
The Equal Protection Clause permits Idaho to ensure equal athletic opportunities for girls and women by limiting some athletic competitions and teams to biological females. As part of ensuring equal opportunities, Idaho may prevent biological ‘males from displacing females.’
This statement comes after the Supreme Court’s Title VII decision on June 15, in which the court included transgender people in the biological definitions of the sexes. Although Justice Neal Gorsuch explicitly stated this extended definition pertained to Title VII alone, many foresee a risk that Title IX could soon be redefined.
Title IX was created to protect equal educational opportunities for the sexes, including athletic opportunities. Ehardt, a seasoned division one athlete and coach, is fighting for the standard of competition under Title IX not be reduced solely to identifying as female. “All transgender people have to do is ‘identify as.’ So that’s why it’s very important to stick to what Title IX was all about. Title IX was about separate areas of competition for the sexes,” says Ehardt.
In 2019, the Karolinska Institute found that even puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones do not diminish the benefits of male athlete’s natural testosterone. Although biological males can substantially reduce their testosterone levels after hormone therapy, the extensive research on irreversible physiological traits such as bone density after puberty clashes against the ACLU’s argument that what should determine the eligibility of an athlete is one’s “choice” of gender.
In the infamous case of transgender fighter Fallon Fox, Ronda Rousey commented to TMZSports that because of Fox’s biological bone structure, “She does have an unfair advantage that is outside of her control…and it’s unfortunate especially for her competition as well.”
While it is possible that biological girls can beat transgender girls, but biological boys will always have a structural advantage over girls after puberty. The DOJ added that “Plaintiffs have not provided and cannot provide any explanation for why the Equal Protection Clause entitles transgender athletes to these benefits at the expense of their biological female peers.”
Although sympathetic to transgender people’s’s desire to compete, the FPA believes the solution ought not to jeopardize women’s opportunities. The FPA’s Blaine Conzatti, who helped pass the Idaho bill, says many legislators had tears in their eyes as they discussed the futures of young people struggling with gender identity. “But it is just not exclusionary to say that biological boys should play against boys and biological girls play against girls in sports,” Conzatti says.
If the physiological advantages of biological boys do not change after transitioning, then their participation in girls sports reduces the opportunities of biological girls competing. “Eligibility requirements are part of sports,” says FPA’s Vice President of Strategy Autumn Leva. “That’s just the world in which athletics lives. And so, it’s nothing unusual to have eligibility requirements on any team.”
The ALCU claims that trans males do not have advantages over biological or “cis” girls because they don’t always win, and argue that there are a variety of factors among girl competitors that influence the outcome of sports or competitions. A girl could be much taller than other girls, or someone’s parents might be able to afford a personal trainer. Because of these varying factors in girls’ sports and because trans athletes do not necessarily win, they say physiology is an irrelevant factor.
Situations where girls like Izzy beat out the competition, however, contrast cases when transgender girls blow out their biologically female competition completely, like in the case of Fox.
“We watch the Superbowl if it’s a close game,” Leva says. “Everybody is tuned in, everybody is excited. And if it’s a complete blowout, most people turn off the TV for the fourth quarter. As a culture, we all want there to be a fair competition.”
The FPA is hopeful that the social media campaign will inform public opinion about the complexity of the issue, and emphasize that Title IX intends to ensure equal opportunity for the sexes. Because of the ambiguous physiological standards required for transgender people to compete, their allowance into girls’s sports is simply unfair.