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Trans, non-binary state lawmakers press Biden on student athletics

Fourteen transgender and non-binary state legislators across the country recently asked President Joe Biden to amend a proposed rule on transgender participation in school athletics that would allow restrictions on the participation of some older transgender athletes in high school and college athletic programs.

A group of 11 state legislators sent a letter two weeks ago asking him to update the proposed rule so that it “allows trans people to participate fully in the sports of their choice and does not perpetuate baseless and harmful claims about trans athletes.”

Among the lawmakers was Rep. Joey Zephyr of Montana, who was Condemnation Wednesday for the remainder of the 2023 legislative session following his comments about gender-affirming care. The group is concerned about a carve-out in the Education Department’s proposed rule, which was announced on April 6.

It would ensure that equal opportunity athletics includes transgender students under the federal Title IX rule, which mandated 50 years ago that educational institutions — regardless of gender — have equal athletic opportunities.

In implementing the rules for transgender students, the Education Department proposed that school districts would not be allowed to enforce district-wide bans on transgender athletes, although it would consider the age of transgender student athletes.

The proposed rule would mean “elementary school students would generally be able to participate in school sports teams consistent with their gender identity.”

But the rule “provides flexibility” for federally funded high schools and colleges, which may be allowed to “limit the participation of some transgender students” in sports based on a variety of factors, including fairness in competition and the nature of a particular sport.

If this rule is implemented, it will be the first national standard for participation by transgender high school athletes because the National Federation of State High School Associations does not set participation rules for transgender athletes.

The group of state lawmakers said they understand that “the administration may try to provide legal protections and clarity” with the proposed rule, but argued the rule in its current form “…would simply give those who want to deny our rights how to do so.” A roadmap for that.”

While Title IX allows schools receiving federal funding to field sex-segregated sports teams to select certain participants based on “competitive ability” or certain athletic activities, lawmakers and others argue that similar considerations could be used to exclude some transgender adults. the students

“(T)here is no such thing as an acceptable ‘compromise’ that limits transgender Americans’ access to equal rights,” the lawmakers wrote, adding that the successes of transgender athletes should be celebrated. “When it comes to policies addressing trans athletes, our position is: Trans athletes belong in sports. Full stop.”

The White House did not respond to requests for comment. An Education Department spokeswoman said the department will “carefully review and consider all public comments.”

Nineteen states bar transgender students from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign, and nearly 200 bills limiting transgender rights have been introduced in state houses this year, the most in a year.

One transgender state lawmaker who is asking the Biden administration to reconsider is Rep. Gerry Cannon, a three-term New Hampshire state representative. “We need a response to prove to us that they’re listening and that they’re reaching out to the transgender community to help them understand the real issues,” Cannon said.

He said the flow of state laws to deny transgender students access to athletics is a “political scare tactic” and perhaps a reaction to the success of Leah Thomas, a transgender NCAA swimming champion, last year because “the number of trans athletes is not one. The number is astronomical.”

Twenty-two-year-old Thomas Arguably one of the most controversial and accomplished collegiate trans swimmers to compete in recent years. For three years, he swam on the men’s team at the University of Pennsylvania, but after a period of retirement, returned to swimming with the women. For three years, he swam on the men’s team at the University of Pennsylvania, but after a period of retirement, returned to swimming with the women. He was sometimes so far ahead that he could be seen waiting for his competitors to catch up. NCAA rules require trans female athletes to undergo testosterone suppression therapy for a year before competing, and Thomas was on twice that long.

“It’s not like there are thousands of trans student athletes, but the issue gets a lot of noise,” Cannon said.

And it seems to be resonating with the masses. The Department of Education received nearly 30,000 comments over the past two weeks on the proposed regulations.

The National Center for Transgender Equality said it facilitated more than 1,000 comments through its “Let Us Play” campaign. The group’s national organizer, Alex Del Rosario, said they are asking the administration to make the rule as “clear” and “comprehensive” as possible so that school districts’ obligations are clear, and transgender students are able to seek legal remedies if the rule is not followed. did not follow

Conservative groups have cited fairness and safety concerns for women’s athletics in not supporting the inclusion of transgender students in school athletics. One group, Heritage Action, is seeking comment against the proposed rule. The group said the current carve-outs for older transgender students would create “a mountain of bureaucratic paperwork for every school.”

If the proposed rule is implemented in its current form this year, “the future of the rule will be largely mired in litigation, unless states (including laws restricting participation by transgender athletes) fully back off, which no one expects them to,” Brett Sokolow, The chairman of the Association of Title IX Administrators told CBS News that the issue is likely to reach the Supreme Court.

Sokolow also warned that school district administrators could be held personally liable for federal civil rights violations if they followed state bans on transgender sports participation instead of federal Title IX rules.

In the interim, as the proposed regulation makes its way through the federal rulemaking process, various sports and organizations are coming up with their own rules for transgender participation in high-level sports such as college athletics.

Various sports and their governing bodies generally require documentation of testosterone suppression treatment for older student athletes, policies that have been adopted for the regular season, and championship participation by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. These standards are in line with International Olympic Committee standards, which emphasize inclusion, harm prevention, fairness, but do not “assume advantage” for any transgender athletes in competition.

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Bo Erickson

Bo Erickson

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