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Women’s Sports Should Be Women’s Sports

Shelby Houlihan wins the women’s 1,500m in 4:06.41 during the USATF Indoor Championships. Feb 15, 2020; Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Kirby Lee/ USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

Transgender sports policies make a mockery of women’s competition. Just look at the state of Connecticut.

At the 2018 state open for women’s track and field, two young men identifying as transgender took first and second place in the 100m race. Their participation not only deprived young women of their rightful claim to victory, but also prevented others from even qualifying in the New England Championships. Now three of these displaced female high-school athletes are, along with their parents, seeking federal redress in a lawsuit against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC).

Last June, the same athletes had filed a complaint to the Education Department. But now that two of them are nearing graduation — and transgender activists are strengthening their influence nationwide — they have sought a speedier judicial intervention. Filed on behalf of Selina Soule, a senior at Glastonbury High School, Chelsea Mitchell, a senior at Canton High School, and Alanna Smith, a sophomore at Danbury High School, the suit argues, correctly, that the CIAC policy is in violation of Title IX.

Enacted in 1972, Title IX was designed to ensure that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” For sports, this meant that women were to receive equal opportunities to men. (Overeager implementation of the provision has, regrettably, caused many universities to scuttle men’s sports teams.) Between 1972 and 2011, female participation in high-school athletics increased from around 250,000 to 3.25 million students, with similar increases at the collegiate level.

Transgender sports policies threaten women’s participation in sports. The CIAC’s transgender policy allows an individual to compete against the opposite sex so long as his proclaimed gender identity is the same as how he presents at school. Since enacting it in 2017, the two racers in question have deprived young women of 15 state championship titles and more than 85 opportunities to participate in higher-level competitions. And that’s just in Connecticut. There are 19 other states, and counting, with similar policies.

On account of their androgynized bodies (e.g. larger hearts, bigger lungs, and greater muscle mass) men are generally larger, taller, faster, and stronger than women. And on account of changes from puberty (e.g. increased body-fat levels, hip breadth, and joint orientation) women are generally smaller, shorter, slower, and weaker than men. As the Connecticut lawsuit outlines, these statements are “not stereotypes” or “social constructs” but rather “inescapable biological facts of the human species.”

They are also obvious. For why else, other than an in-built physiological advantage, would there be a 10–20 percent performance gap in elite sports between the sexes? And why else would thousands of men and boys, with relative ease, routinely beat the Olympian gold standards in women’s sports? Consider Allyson Felix, who has as many World Championship gold medals for sprinting as does Usain Bolt. In 2018 alone, nearly 300 high-school boys beat her lifetime best for the 400 meters.

As Duke law professor and all-American track athlete Doraine Lambelet Coleman explained to the House Judiciary Committee last year: “If sport were not segregated, most school-aged females would be eliminated from competition during the earliest rounds.” Coleman went on to explain that — lest we think that the odd exception can’t hurt — “it only takes three male-bodied athletes to preclude the best females from the medal stand, and eight to exclude them from the track.”

The high-school girls in Connecticut are to be commended for their courage and deserve to prevail in their lawsuit. But it is both absurd and unjust that their resistance is necessary. Women’s sports should remain women’s sports.

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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