Who Can Be a Woman in Sports?


Annie Fingersh, Co-Editor in Chief

Slider image from KX News

The Title IX law was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program. Under the Trump administration, this law was challenged by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) regarding transgender inclusion in high school athletics, the most recently being in June 2019 and June 2020. The ADF, a conservative Christian legal organization that has argued many anti-LGBTQ+ cases, claims that inclusion of transgender women in high school athletics violates the Title IX law and puts cisgender female athletes at a disadvantage.

In March 2020, Idaho became the first state to bar transgender women from competing in women’s sports. The law requires athletes to participate in athletics based on the results of mandatory sex testing, however it was challenged in court by transgender athlete Lindsay Hecox along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who claimed it was discriminatory and violated equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. The Chief US District Judge, David C. Nye, issued a temporary injunction to the law, meaning that transgender athletes could participate on the athletic teams they identify with while the case proceeds in court. About a month later, the ADF filed an appeal to this temporary injunction. 

Idaho is the first state to ban transgender women from participating in women’s sports, but individuals like Hecox censure the decision as being discriminatory and violating. Image from Carolina News and Reporter

In June 2020, the ADF filed a lawsuit against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) policy which governed transgender inclusion in high school athletics. Connecticut is one of 18 states that allows transgender high school students to compete in athletics according to their gender identity rather than their sex assigned at birth. The ADF claims that this policy violates the Title IX bill which is designed to promote inclusion in sports, and to properly achieve this, transgender students must be excluded. Their central argument for both cases revolves around the opinion that transgender women competing on cisgender women’s teams will negate nearly 50 years of progress that women’s athletics has made since the Title IX bill was passed. 

Since then, other conservative groups have spoken out about this issue, especially since the inauguration of President Biden. On his inauguration day, Biden issued an Executive Order stating that all federally-funded schools must allow transgender females to compete in womens’ sports or face administrative action from the Education Department.

Conservative groups or individuals continue to argue that this new policy is unfair to cisgender female athletes. Abigail Shrier, a journalist from the Wall Street Journal and author of Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, says that “the athletic chasm between the sexes, which opens at puberty, is both permanent and unbridgeable,” and that this disadvantage is costing cisgender female athletes the chance at “championships, scouting and scholarship opportunities.”

Conservatives often argue that including transgender athletes in women’s sports brings them at a disadvantage and violates the Title IX law. Photo by Annie Fingersh

Though many conservative groups say women’s rights are at risk in this battle, this isn’t always the case. Jessica Blubaugh, Director of Women’s Intersport Network for Kansas City (WIN for KC), says that the organization strongly believes in the “inclusion and the opportunity for everyone to have access to play and benefit from the power of sports.” Though she directs an agency that promotes the empowerment of girls and women through sports, their organization believes in the right for all women, cisgender or transgender, to play sports. Blubaugh says their organization strives “to build a community in which all women are provided opportunities for participation [in athletics].”

Though conservative opinions are not a minority regarding this subject, legislation for this issue is becoming more liberal, such as Biden’s Executive Order, and many are starting to support the right for all women to play sports.