Photo: tableatny, via Wikimedia
A trio of cisgender female athletes is suing the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and multiple school boards in the state for policies that allow transgender athletes to compete in high school sports based on their gender identity.
The athletes in question take issue with the CIAC policy that allowed transgender track stars Terry Miller, of Bloomfield High School, and Andraya Yearwood, of Cromwell High School, to compete as girls.
In their lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in federal court, the plaintiffs — two seniors and a sophomore — and their parents argue that Connecticut’s policy on transgender student-athletes takes away opportunities for the girls to compete for honors and awards, qualify for regional and national meets, and potentially earn athletic scholarships to colleges.
The girls, who are being represented by the anti-LGBTQ organization Alliance Defending Freedom, claim they have experienced anxiety when they have to compete against transgender athletes, and depression when they have lost to Miller and Yearwood in the past.
They also claim the policy violates Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which is intended to provide equal opportunity for women to compete in sports (and to have schools provide funding to female sports teams that is equivalent to the amount spent on male sports teams).
The lawsuit relies heavily on arguments that transgender females — referred to as “males” in the lawsuit — have a biological advantage over females, and argues that the advantage does not disappear, even among transgender athletes who take puberty blockers.
“The harm inflicted on girls by the CIAC policy, however, goes far beyond specific lost victories and lost opportunities to participate in elite meets, and far beyond the specific girls who have been deprived of that recognition and those opportunities. Instead, the harm extends at least to all girls who participate in track and field events under the CIAC Policy, and indeed to girls — including young girls — who may now or someday aspire to become track and field athletes,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers argue in the lawsuit.
“The cumulative effect of the CIAC Policy is that all girls in Connecticut do not receive equal athletic opportunities,” the lawsuit continues. “Whether or not a girl is the one who loses out to a male in a particular race, the quality of competitive opportunities provided to all girls does not equally reflect the quality of competitive opportunities provided to boys, because — in contrast to boys — girls are forced to face a level of competition that does not equally reflect and accommodate girls’ different physiological characteristics and abilities.”
The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking to join the lawsuit to defend the right of transgender athletes to compete according to their gender identity.
“Today’s complaint filed in Connecticut targeting the inclusion of transgender girls in girls’ athletics and specifically naming Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood is a dangerous distortion of both law and science in the service of excluding trans youth from public life,” Chase Strangio, the deputy director for Trans Justice with the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, said in a statement.
Related: Education Department launches investigation into Connecticut’s transgender athlete policy
“Efforts to undermine Title IX by claiming it doesn’t apply to a subset of girls will ultimately hurt all students and compromise the work of ending the long legacy of sex discrimination in sports,” Strangio added. “Additionally, the language of the complaint, which deliberately misgenders transgender youth and demands that high school athletics be organized by chromosomes, is an assault on the basic dignity and humanity of transgender people and a threat to the privacy and equality of all students.”
The transgender girls named in the lawsuit issued their own statements expressing their views.
“I have known two things for most of my life: I am a girl and I love to run,” Yearwood 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.”
Miller says it is “unfair and painful” that she is being attacked for her success.
“So many young trans people face exclusion at school and in athletics and it contributes to the horrible pain and discrimination that my community faces. The more we are told that we don’t belong and should be ashamed of who we are, the fewer opportunities we have to participate in sports at all,” she said. “And being an athlete can help us survive. But instead, we are being told to be quiet, to go home, to stop being who we are.
“I will continue to fight for all trans people to compete and participate consistent with who we are,” she added. “There is a long history of excluding Black girls from sports and policing our bodies. I am a runner and I will keep running and keep fighting for my existence, my community, and my rights.”
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