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On Wednesday we mark International Transgender Day of Visibility, a time to celebrate transgender and non-binary people and recognize the violence and discrimination that they face—and that includes the discrimination they increasingly experience in sports.
President Joe Biden is the first president to officially recognize the day, issuing a statement on Wednesday regarding the barriers that transgender people face in achieving equality in the U.S.
“Transgender Americans of all ages face high rates of violence, harassment, and discrimination,” Biden said. “Nearly one in three transgender Americans have experienced homelessness at some point in life. Transgender Americans continue to face discrimination in employment, housing, health care, and public accommodations. The crisis of violence against transgender women, especially transgender women of color, is a stain on our nation’s conscience.”
This year’s Transgender Day of Visibility is especially significant. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 192 anti-LGBTQ+ bills are under consideration in state legislatures across the country. Of those, 93 directly target transgender people. Anti-transgender bills have been sent to governors in four states, most of them just this week:
- In South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem didn’t sign a bill that banned transgender women and girls from competing in female sports, but then later issued two executive orders. One requires all girls who want to play in girls’ sports at public schools to present a birth certificate or affidavit showing that they were assigned female at birth. The other order recommends that state universities ban transgender women from competing.
- In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee signed a new law banning transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports. Under this law, student-athletes would need to prove that their sex matches what is listed on an “original” birth certificate to compete in public school sports.
- In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson also signed a bill banning transgender girls and women from participating on school sports teams consistent with their gender. Then the Arkansas Senate followed it up by approving a bill banning gender confirming treatments for minors. If enacted, it prohibits doctors from providing gender-confirming hormone treatment or surgery to minors.
- Earlier in March, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill into law that bans transgender athletes in public schools and colleges from competing on women’s or girls’ teams.
Proponents of such laws argue that transgender girls and women are stronger, faster, and bigger than those who are born female—the policies, they say, “save women’s sports.” But according to the Associated Press, 19 states allow full inclusion of trans athletes and seven mirror the NCAA’s policy that requires hormone therapy for trans women. USA Track & Field follows the International Olympic Committee’s rule that certain medical benchmarks are achieved before an athlete competes for medals or prize money.
The World Marathon Majors races, including the Boston Marathon, time and score participants as the gender that they self-identify. In the case of Boston, it must match the gender that the athlete competed in their qualifying race. For prize money and awards, most races follow the IOC guidelines.
But most of the laws at the state level are targeting youth sports. And the push to ban transgender girls comes with many concerns from experts who say that athletics can help lower anxiety, depression, and suicide for this vulnerable population. A new poll by Hart Research Associates and the Human Rights Campaign found that 73 percent of people believe that trans kids should be allowed to play on the team they feel most comfortable and that 70 percent of the country supports the Equality Act, which provides nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people.
As the debate continues, we encourage runners to continue reading. Here are a few places to start:
A Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Youth, by the Trevor Project. A starting place to learn the basics of gender identity and expression and how to support the trans and nonbinary people in your life.
Opinion: Five Stumbles on the Path to Transgender Inclusion and Fairness for All Girls in Sports. Dawn Ennis, managing editor of Outsports, challenges the goals of the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group, which has asked Congress to limit the participation of transgender girls and women who “have experienced all or part of male puberty” from sports.
Why Transgender Girls Are Suddenly the G.O.P’s Culture-War Focus. The New York Times explores why so many Republican-led states are suddenly passing bills barring transgender athletes from girls’ sports.
Opinion: So You Want to Save Girls’ Sports? New York Times opinion writer Lindsay Crouse asks what would happen if new activists invested in female athletes—demanding equal pay, resources, and media coverage—instead of using them as an excuse for transphobia.
Lawmakers Can’t Cite Local Examples of Trans Girls in Sports. An Associate Press investigation finds that in 20 states introducing bills that would ban transgender girls from competing on girls’ teams in public school, sponsors cannot cite any instance in their state or region where such participation has caused problems.
As States Consider Restrictions on Trans Athletes, What Does the Science Say? NPR asks Dr. Eric Vilain, a pediatrician and geneticist at Children’s National Hospital. He has studied sex differences throughout his career and advised the IOC on transgender policy.
New Racing Rules Remove Some Barriers for Transgender Runners. A report by the New York Times outlines the way the Western States Endurance Run has formed its transgender athlete policy.
Nearly 550 College Athletes Demand NCAA Pull Championships From States with Anti-Trans Sports Legislation. Sports Illustrated covers a letter that was created by track and field athletes from Washington University in St. Louis.
Training for Transgender Runners. Specific training science for trans athletes is limited, so Trail Runner shares some coaching takeaways.