Title IX update faces polarizing challenges

Title IX Culture Divide (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Title IX Culture Divide (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

At least 19 states now ban or limit the participation in sports of transgender athletes, who are at the center of a polarizing and politicized debate, although only a fraction of them are believed to be among the 8.5 million high school and college athletes in the United States. United States.

The bans on transgender athletes are being challenged in court and advocates on both sides are citing or pointing to Title IX, the anti-discrimination law that has protected and helped girls and women since its passage in 1972.

As the 50th anniversary of Title IX approaches, an overview of the debate:


For the purposes of the sport debate, these are primarily transgender girls or women who have gone through puberty without hormone treatment and continue to have male hormones in their bodies. This leads to what critics say is a sizable performance gap and unfair competition, although research on this topic is often in dispute and still taking shape.

Many international sports now require athletes who want to compete in the women’s rankings but have certain high testosterone levels to take gender-confirming hormones for a certain period of time to be eligible. Perhaps the most prominent case involves South African runner Caster Semenya, who decided not to take the hormones and missed the Tokyo Olympics because of it.

As for how many transgender athletes are impacted by state bans, there are no definitive numbers, although the Associated Press report found the restrictions largely a solution in search of a problem.


Most of the 19 states that have imposed restrictions on transgender athletes tend to vote Conservative. Some governors have vetoed bills passed by Republican-controlled legislatures, arguing that the laws are unfair to transgender women, will leave states and their school districts vulnerable to lawsuits, and that no problem really exists. Indiana and Utah are among the states that overrode their governors’ vetoes.

Transgender athletes in states with bans can challenge them in court or sit out. Part of the legislation requires what can only be described as invasive evidence for an athlete to compete; in Ohio, the proposed language said that “if a participant’s sex is contested,” a physician would need to approve the athlete’s “internal and external reproductive anatomy,” as well as testosterone levels and overall genetic makeup.

In other states, high school athletics associations allow transgender women to compete in women’s sports. That led to a court fight in Connecticut, where a group of cisgender high school athletes said that allowing transgender athletes to compete deprived them of track titles and scholarship opportunities. Her attorney, Christiana Holcomb, said the rule “is completely at odds with Title IX” and “reverses nearly 50 years of advancements for women.”

The other side? A lawsuit filed in Florida argues that the state’s ban on transgender athletes participating in women’s sports violates Title IX.


Earlier this year, the NCAA said it would drop its old policy — which was consistent across all sports in requiring transgender athletes to undergo hormone therapy — and adhere to the rules set by each sport’s national governing body.

The NCAA then decided not to adopt USA Swimming’s rules, which made it possible for transgender swimmer Lia Thomas of Penn to compete in the national championships in March, where she won the 500-yard title.


Title IX was written long before the debate over transgender athletes became such political football, even before transgender tennis player Renee Richards was sued for playing, and certainly before Olympic champion Caitlyn Jenner transitioned.

The historic clause of the law – “No one shall on the basis of sex” – is subject to a different interpretation than it was in 1972. In 2022, the question essentially boils down to whether it includes gender identity. Under President Joe Biden, the Department of Education has made it clear that it does.

A year ago, the agency issued a statement that said that “addressing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity” is its responsibility “to enforce the Title IX ban on sex discrimination.” It was unclear whether anything more substantial is on the way.

In an analysis, The National Law Review said that “it is clear that congressional action may be necessary to provide a firmer foundation for these protections”.

Don’t hold your breath: The only piece of federal legislation that tries to bring clarity to the issue was sponsored by a Republican and went nowhere in Congress. Democrats largely supported the Equality Act, which would enshrine many rights for the LGBTQ community but not affect Title IX.


To learn more about the impact of Title IX, read the full AP report: https://apnews.com/hub/title-ix Video Timeline: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v= NdgNI6BZpw0

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