Metro Weekly

Education Department launches investigation into Connecticut’s transgender athlete policy

Student-athletes' complaint argues allowing trans women to compete in women's sports violates their civil rights

Photo: tableatny, via Wikimedia.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has launched an investigation into Connecticut’s policy allowing transgender high school athletes to compete in sports based on the gender with which they identify.

The investigation comes in response to a complaint, filed in June, by the families of three cisgender female track stars who claim they were denied opportunities to compete at a higher level and earn potential college scholarships after two transgender athletes — Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller — finished first and second in the 55-meter dash at the state indoor track championships this past winter.

Miller subsequently went on to win the 200-meter outdoor title and participate in the winning 4×400-meter relay team, while Yearwood finished fourth in the 100-meter dash.

In the complaint, Selina Soule, of Glastonbury, Conn., two other anonymous cisgender females, and their parents allege that the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s policy allowing student-athletes to compete according to their gender identity discriminates against cisgender girls and violates their rights under Title IX, which is intended to provide equal opportunities for women in sports.

The complaint, filed on behalf of the girls by the anti-LGBTQ conservative organization Alliance Defending Freedom, claims the policy “threatens to reverse the gains for girls and women that Title IX has achieved since 1972” and states that “highly competitive girls” are “systematically being deprived of a fair and equal opportunity to experience the ‘thrill of victory.'”

The CIAC says its policy conforms with Connecticut’s law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity, which means transgender students are treated by the gender with which they identify.

According to the website Transathlete.com, which tracks various pro-transgender policies, 16 other states besides Connecticut have adopted similar policies, reports the Associated Press.

Soule has since become a conservative activist, coming out against passage of the Equality Act because of the ramifications of nondiscrimination laws protecting transgender people (which do not contain a carve-out or exemption for sports).

She and her lawyers with Alliance Defending Freedom frequently refer to Miller and Yearwood as “boys” or “biological males” in their public statements.

ADF released a statement praising the Department of Education’s decision to pursue an investigation.

“Female athletes deserve to compete on a level playing field. Forcing them to compete against boys makes them spectators in their own sports, which is grossly unfair and destroys their athletic opportunities,” ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb said in the statement. “For that reason, we are pleased that OCR has agreed to investigate.

“Title IX is a federal law that was designed to eliminate discrimination against women in education and athletics, and women fought long and hard to earn the equal athletic opportunities that Title IX provides,” Holcomb continued. “Allowing boys to compete in girls’ sports reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women.”

Neither Yearwood nor Miller, have responded to the Education Department’s decision, and their families have declined to comment when contacted by news outlets. But when the ADF complaint was first filed in June, Yearwood issued a statement via the American Civil Liberties Union.

“There is no shortage of discrimination that I face as a young Black woman who is transgender. I have to wake up every day in a world where people who look like me face so many scary and unfair things,” she said. “I am lucky to live in a state that protects my rights and to have a family that supports me…. It is so painful that people not only want to tear down my successes but take down the laws and policies that protect people like me. I will never stop being me! I will never stop running!”

Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, also issued a statement at the time, saying, in part: “Discrimination on the basis of sex extends to trans people. Girls who are transgender are girls. Attacking two Black young women who are simply participating in the sport they love just because they are transgender is wrong, it is dangerous, and it is distorts Title IX, which is a law that protects all students on the basis of sex.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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