As Biden introduced a new anti-discrimination law on the basis of gender identity, the sports world revisited the topic
The Biden administration signed an “Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation” last month during President Joe Biden’s first day in office.
The order mandates that all people should not face discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation in schools, jobs or in any parts of life.
“Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love,” the order reads. “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”
The topic of gender identity has been heavily debated in the sports community. With this order in effect, the U.S. allows people to participate in a sport that aligns with their gender rather than the sex they were assigned at birth.
In the U.S., conversation about gender identity and high school athletics started a few years ago when two teenage transgender girls—Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood—from Cromwell High in Connecticut were allowed to compete with the girls’ track and field team.
This decision came with a lot of criticism from people saying that Miller and Yearwood had an unfair advantage. Parents and students began to sign petitions to change the rules that allowed students to participate in athletics based on their assigned sex at birth.
“There is no shortage of discrimination that I face as a young Black woman who is transgender,” Yearwood said. “I have to wake up every day in a world where people who look like me face so many scary and unfair things.”
Today, 17 states, along with the District of Columbia, require transgender girls to be included in girls’ high school sports regardless of the sex they were assigned at birth. Six states do not have strict policies regarding sport and gender identity. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) also endorsed a policy that allows transgender female student-athletes to compete if they have been taking gender-affirming hormones for more than a year. Their goal is to create “an inclusive environment for transgender athletes while also preserving the current level of competitive fairness in collegiate athletics.”
Not too long ago, some high-profile athletes as well as women’s sport advocates, including legendary tennis player Martina Navratilova, five former presidents of the Women’s Sports Foundation and five former Olympic gold medalists, proposed that the U.S. Congress and the Biden administration remove girls’ and women’s sports from the executive order who “have experienced all or part of male puberty (which is the scientific justification for separate sex sport)”. This group says it doesn’t want to remove transgender girls and women from all sports but would like to accommodate their sports participation in other ways, including separate heats, additional events or divisions among other things.
“We fully support the Biden executive order, ending LGBT discrimination throughout society, including employment, banking, family law and public accommodations,” Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a Title IX attorney and one of the leaders of the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group, told USA TODAY Sports in an exclusive interview. “Competitive sports, however, are akin to pregnancy and medical testing; these areas require a science-based approach to trans inclusion. Our aim has been on protecting the girls’ and women’s competitive categories, while crafting accommodations for trans athletes into sport wherever possible.”
The order builds on a landmark ruling and extends protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and calls for the Supreme Court ruling to apply to Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination in federally funded schools.
If schools are funded by the federal government, they are required by law to allow all girls to play on girls’ sport teams or face serious consequences.
“We understand that is a complicated issue and that one conversation won’t do it,” Hogshead-Makar said.
According to new research that examines testosterone suppression, even a reduction of testosterone will only slightly reduce the advantage of muscle mass retained by individuals assigned male at birth.
One of the researchers, Tommy Lundberg, recommends that individual sports set their own policies.
“It is easy to sympathize with arguments made on both sides,” Lundberg said. “It is going to be impossible to make everyone happy.”
With the new executive order being at the forefront of President Biden’s tenure, it has ushered in more clarity on this topic. The new order will provide transgender athletes more legal protection as they participate in the sports they love. Written by: Katherin Raygoza — firstname.lastname@example.org