Former NFL star and current Fox Sports 1 host Marcellus Wiley has suggested creating a “separate transgender category” for youth athletics in response to outrage from conservative circles over President Joe Biden’s recent executive order prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
The executive order, issued on the first day of Biden’s presidency, seeks to ensure that the federal government complies with a recent Supreme Court decision finding that instances of anti-LGBTQ employment discrimination are simply iterations of sex-based discrimination, and thus, illegal under federal law.
Contrary to what has been reported in right-wing and even so-called “mainstream” media outlets, Biden’s order is not intended to exclusively deal with transgender athletes in sports.
Rather, it includes transgender participation in athletics as just one of several areas where LGBTQ people should protected from discrimination, in addition to housing, credit, or access to public accommodations, such as restaurants, movie theaters, doctor’s offices, pharmacies, retail establishments, and libraries.
But opponents of LGBTQ equality know — and cynically rely upon the assumption — that transgender inclusion in sport has become a point of controversy that could derail any law attempting to outlaw any form of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
Highlighting this controversy, ex-NFL player Wiley attempted to wade into the larger debate over transgender inclusion, tweeting: “As a father of 3 daughters & the husband to a former collegiate athlete, this hits home in a special way. It’s time to create a separate transgender category in competition! Also think it’s time for me to start a podcast bcuz some things need to be discussed in detail!”
That tweet contained a series of images dealing with the issue of transgender athletes, including a screenshot of a column in the archconservative Wall Street Journal declaring Biden’s order “the end of girls’ sports.”
Wiley’s initial tweet received a lot of pushback from Twitter users declaring that there should be no separate category for transgender athletes, and they should be required to compete based on their assigned sex at birth, according to Fox News.
“No extra category. Men and women,” wrote one user.
“I’m hearing that pushback. But is it respecting all? That’s what I want to dive into,” responded Wiley.
🤔 I’m hearing that pushback. But, is that respecting all? That’s what I want to dive into
— Marcellus Wiley 🧢 (@marcelluswiley) January 30, 2021
Wiley’s suggestion of allowing transgender people to participate while not disadvantaging cisgender women echoes that of tennis star Marina Navratilova, who, along with a “Women’s Sports Policy Working Group” she helped form, has called for an exemption from Biden’s executive order as it pertains to women’s sports.
Biden’s order has received significant pushback in several states, with lawmakers around the country introducing at least 20 bills aimed at limiting transgender students, especially transgender women, to competing based on their gender identity.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has supported athletes in Connecticut and Idaho seeking to compete based on their gender identity, wrote a post explaining “What President Biden’s LGBTQ Executive Order Does and Doesn’t Do” to try and dispel misinformation being shared on social media.
“Contrary to a trending hashtag on social media and the polemics of a few loud voices, President Biden most certainly did not ‘erase women’ — whatever that means,” Chase Strangio, the ACLU’s Deputy Director for Trans Justice, wrote. “By stating the administration’s intention to follow Supreme Court precedent and federal law, at core all the newly-elected president did was lay out what the law is and agree, unlike his predecessor, to follow it. That includes, as the order makes clear, ensuring that ‘[c]hildren should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.'”Fox
Strangio continued: “Predictably, powerful individuals and organizations immediately objected to the idea that trans people might actually be protected in schools and began circulating the insidious lie that trans people are inherently a threat to non-transgender women. This is not true in the context of restrooms and locker rooms and it is likewise untrue in the context of sports, where opponents of trans existence have focused their efforts over the last two years.
“[W]hatever opposition anti-trans individuals, organizations, and lawmakers have to trans existence, federal law already prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in employment, education, housing, health care, and credit,” he added. “And since the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock recognized that it is impossible to discriminate against someone for being LGBTQ without discriminating on the basis of sex, our federal statutes are the source of legal protections for LGBTQ people — not [Biden’s] executive order. Those who claim to be victims of Biden’s affirmation of these legal protections are really angry about legal rules that were drafted by Congress decades ago and affirmed by the Supreme Court in June.”
The Women’s Sports Foundation, which seeks to advance the lives of women and girls through sports, has said that charges that Biden’s executive order threatens women’s opportunities in athletics are erroneous.
“The [executive order] does not address how transgender athletes will be included in school sports, just that they should be included in a way consistent with their gender identity. It is an executive order, not agency-specific guidance, thus, it asks all federal and state agencies to review any policies that may be inconsistent with the direction set forth in the EO,” the organization said in a statement.
“The false rhetoric taking hold is a distraction to the real threats to girls and women in sports, such as lack of Title IX understanding and compliance; inequity in compensation, resources, sponsorship and media attention; harassment and abuse of female athletes and women working in sports, the list goes on. These real threats are well known, well documented, yet they have become tolerated. Society pays them sporadic attention at best, with episodic spikes of outrage demanding change. These are issues that can and should be addressed to keep girls’ and women’s sports growing and thriving,” the statement continued.
The ACLU said in an emailed statement highlighting the controversy that the outrage over transgender inclusion is “coming from the same organizations who years earlier were pushing a false narrative about transgender people and restrooms. When it was clear that those lies were no longer effective for pushing an anti-trans policy agenda, the tactic switched to attacks on trans student athletes.”
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