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Biden’s Proposal for Trans Athletes: A Balancing Act of Exceptions

by Ryan Lee
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The Biden administration has proposed that schools and colleges across the United States can no longer stop transgender athletes from playing on their teams. However, there can be certain limits put in place to ensure fairness.

The government is proposing a law that would stop some states from not letting transgender people join sports teams based on their gender identity. If the law is accepted, it will become an important part of Title IX – a rule that was established in 1972 to ensure fairness between genders.

The idea must be accepted by a lot of people, but it will probably see opposition. Even though some people were angry about the idea, others thought that it did not do enough to help transgender athletes.

The same day the Supreme Court made their decision, they said a transgender girl who is 12-years-old can still take part in middle school track and cross-country teams. But, West Virginia has a law that stops transgender people from joining female sports teams.

At least 16 states now have laws which prevents students from participating in high school sport activities. Some of these rules even affect intramural sports, college sports, and club sports. Three other states have put the enforcement of their bans on hold since it’s being challenged by the courts and one state will only start enforcing its ban from July.

The Education Department has put forward a rule that makes it so schools and colleges receiving government money wouldn’t be able to make a rule completely banning transgender people from playing sports with the team they identify with. This would violate something called Title IX, and even with this new rule some schools might have rules making it hard for trans athletes to play.

Exceptions can only be made if they help with special educational goals that are really important, like being fair when playing games and reducing the risk of getting hurt.

Depending on the sport, level of competition and age of students, there might be rules about who can join a team. For example, if you are an elementary school student, you probably can play on any team that matches your gender identity. On more competitive teams at high school or college, limits may apply but it’s best to stay away from these for teams without tryouts or cuts anyway.

Miguel Cardona (who works with President Biden) strongly believes that every student should be able to attend school in America, including playing sports, without any kind of discrimination. The Biden administration is using an idea called ‘fairness of competition’ but hasn’t shared specific plans on how this can be done yet.

About 300,000 teenagers in the US between the ages of 13 and 17 identify as transgender. That’s a small part of all high school students in America. A survey from 2017 showed that only 15% of these transgender teens play sports. So it’s much fewer than the general amount of teenage athletes.

Bobbie Hirsch, a sophomore on the Wayne State men’s fencing team and a transgender man, commented that any help is appreciated regarding the proposal. He expressed concerns that this rule would make it easier for schools to prohibit transgender athletes from playing on teams. In an interview over the phone, Bobbie said: “That’s how things have been going”. Last season (2021-22) Bobbie was part of the women’s team and during high school he began transitioning socially before doing so medically last summer.

Eli Bundy, an 18-year-old person that identifies as transgender, who lives in Charleston, South Carolina said that they were happy about the proposed idea but are not completely celebrating yet.

Bundy, who spoke out in 2021 against a South Carolina law banning transgender students from playing sports on girls’ or women’s teams at public schools, admitted they have trouble feeling good even when nice things happen nationally because the state is sending hurtful messages to trans youth.

When reporters asked about the current bans placed by states, an unnamed official from the Education Department said that Title IX is a law and they will work to make sure it is followed in all states.

In the West Virginia case, the Supreme Court said that a girl named Becky Pepper-Jackson can keep playing on her school’s sports teams. The state law they based their decision on says you should use your biology and genetics at birth to look if a person is male or female. This applies to middle schools, high schools, and colleges.

Republican politicians argued that they should control the rules in their states. This was after Kansas’ lawmakers passed a law that prevents transgender girls from playing on teams for either girls or women. Governor Laura Kelly of Kansas tried to stop this law by using her power, but she was not able to do so because the lawmakers voted to override her veto.

Republican state Rep. Brenda Landwehr of Wichita asked “Does the federal government not understand the U.S Constitution which says that each state can decide things for themselves?”. She thinks that states should have their own rights and choices to make by themselves.

Some people believe transgender athletes have an unfair advantage compared to women who are not transgender in sports competitions. Last year, Lia Thomas became the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming title. In January 2002, the organization that oversees college sports made a plan for how to treat transgender athletes in each sport, but recently changed it so that this new policy will not be put into effect until 2023-24.

The NCAA said Thursday night that the rules for transgender student-athletes stay the same. This means that everyone – no matter their gender identity – is treated fairly, safely, and included in sports. The NCAA will keep this policy until the Title IX laws are changed.

Sports organizations are introducing rules that won’t let trans athletes compete in track and field events, or swim in competitions.

Donna de Varona, who won two Olympic gold medals for swimming and is also part of a team that focuses on Women’s Sports Policy, wants to find a way to accommodate transgender athletes while still fostering fairness, opportunity, and safety for girls and women in sport.

“There’s plenty of space for everyone. Why does it have to be just in the womens’ category? We’re already not allowed to choose a lot when it comes to our reproductive rights and now it seems like the same thing is happening with sports,” said de Varona in an interview on the phone.

Sasha Buchert from Lambda Legal, an organization dedicated to fighting for nonbinary and transgender rights, thinks that a proposed rule is important because it supports transgender youth in sports. However, she worries if this rule will be enough to stop discrimination against transgender students.

Someone from the law team that stands for cisgender runners spoke out against this idea, saying it was unfair to female athletes who should be given equal chances. Christiana Kiefer, a senior lawyer at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who was helping Connecticut runners take legal action against allowing two transgender girls to compete in track and field contests, added: “The Biden administration’s decision totally disrespects women and makes them feel like their goals in sports don’t really matter.”

President Joe Biden and his team want to give more rights to transgender students. They created a special federal rule that would provide legal protection from discrimination and other forms of mistreatment in school for these students. This rule caused lots of debate, with lots of people commenting on it, but it is likely to be accepted very soon.

The new rules don’t tell us what restrictions can be made for school sports, but it does make it clear that trans students can’t be singled out. So, schools have to figure out how to follow these rules, or else they could end up facing an investigation by the government or a law suit.

Schools are allowed to make rules regarding athletics, but if the rules do not lead to fairness and cause harm to students who lose out on sports opportunities instead, then the school may be breaking Title IX. In order for a school to meet its expectations, it should try to keep any harm experienced by students at a minimum.

Schools that prevent students from joining sports teams that fit their gender identity could be putting them in a position to feel excluded, which is not the same thing as being rejected for their skills. If schools break Title IX laws, they may face consequences such as losing all their federal funding; however, this has never happened before.

Five writers from across the United States, Eric Olson in Omaha, Nebraska, John Zenor in Birmingham, Alabama, Pat Eaton-Robb in Hartford, Connecticut, James Pollard in Columbia, South Carolina and John Hanna in Topeka Kansas gave their help to release a report. Big Big News education team received funding from Carnegie Corporation of New York while The AP was responsible for all the content included in the report.

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