Last week, America celebrated National Girls and Women in Sports Day, acknowledging the accomplishments of female athletes and the strides they’ve made since Title IX protections enabled them to have a fair playing field.
Unfortunately, a number of activists, politicians, and athletic associations want to erase that progress.
Three young women from Connecticut are fighting to keep from being spectators of their own sport. And this week, they filed a federal lawsuit asking a simple question: Do female athletes have the right to compete on a level playing field?
Let’s take a look.
Meet the Athletes
Back in June of last year, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights on behalf three high school female athletes. One of those girls is Glastonbury High School senior Selina Soule.
In the 2018-2019 season for Connecticut’s high school track and field, Selina missed qualifying for the state championship 55-meter final and an opportunity to qualify for the New England championship by one spot. The top two spots were taken by biological males. This shouldn’t be possible. Unfortunately, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) allows biological males who identify as female to compete in high school girls’ athletics.
When Selina became a spectator of the sport she has spent countless hours perfecting, she noted:
It’s very frustrating and heartbreaking when us girls are at the start of the race and we already know that these [male] athletes are going to come out and win no matter how hard you try. They took away the spots of deserving girls, athletes … me being included.
Selina isn’t the only one affected by the CIAC rule. Not long after Selina publicly came forward about the Title IX complaint, Danbury High School sophomore Alanna Smith added her voice to the conversation:
Even before I get to the track, I already know that I’m not going to get first place, or maybe even second place … I know that no matter how hard I work, I won’t be able to have the top spot.
Alanna is a fierce competitor. She won the 400-meter at the 2019 outdoor New England Regional Championships as a freshman. At the 200-meter in the New England Regionals, she would have taken second place—but dropped to third behind a male competitor.
Along with Selina and Alanna is Canton High School senior Chelsea Mitchell. In 2019, Chelsea was the fastest girl in her state in the 55-meter, but will have little chance of a state championship victory if boys are allowed to compete against her. In fact, she has lost four girls’ state championships, two all-New England awards, and countless other awards to male competitors.
Chelsea knows that she is an elite athlete:
I knew that I was the fastest girl here, one of the fastest in the state. I remembered all my training and everything I had been taught on how to maximize my performance … I thought of all the times that other girls have lost. I could feel the adrenaline in my blood and hope that wafted from me. That just possibly, I could win this. Then, the gun went off. And I lost.
The Uphill Battle to Protect Women’s Sports
The girls’ Title IX complaint gained national attention and even spurred a number of state lawmakers to introduce legislation that protects women in sports.
While everyone should agree that girls like Selina, Alanna, and Chelsea deserve a level playing field, there are some who believe differently. In an article for Wired Magazine, “Trans Athletes Are Posting Victories and Shaking Up Sports”, one commenter states:
“Fair is a very subjective word,” says Joanna Harper, a [biological male], distance runner, and researcher who served on the IOC committee that developed that organization’s current rules. It boils down to whom you’re trying to be fair to, Harper says. “To billions of typical women who cannot compete with men at high levels of sport?” Or “a very repressed minority in transgender people who only want to enjoy the same things that everybody else does, including participation in sports?”
In another piece for the Arizona Daily Star, a different writer claims:
To be sure, there will be instances when a trans youth outcompetes a cis-gendered kid, and there will be plenty of the opposite. This is competitive sports! Learning to lose, as well as learning to win graciously, is an ultimate goal. Let’s weigh the short-term sting of a possible loss against the lifelong damage to a trans youth who is absolutely excluded. There is so much more to athletics than winning every single time.
Rachel McKinnon, a biological male competing in women’s cycling, recently crushed the competition and set world records, then tried to claim that men don’t have significant biological advantages (they do) and that men identifying as women aren’t winning everything.
The message of these advocates for boys in girls’ athletics is clear: “Tough luck, learn how to lose!”
What We’re Doing About It
Meanwhile, the list of girls being affected by boys in their sport continues to grow. And girls are not just losing. In one case, a female mixed-martial arts fighter had her eye socket broken by a male competitor. When schools, sports, and society try to ignore the real differences between men and women, people get hurt. Usually, its women and girls.
With a chance at victory stolen, girls like Selina, Chelsea, and Alanna could miss out on opportunities like college scholarships and sponsorships if they are overlooked because their biological male competitors post better times. For Selina and Chelsea, time is running out as they are in their senior year.
In addition to the Title IX complaint, ADF has now filed a federal lawsuit against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference for its policy that discriminates against female athletes. ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb explains:
Girls deserve to compete on a level playing field. Forcing them to compete against boys isn’t fair, shatters their dreams, and destroys their athletic opportunities. Having separate boys’ and girls’ sports has always been based on biological differences, not what people believe about their gender, because those differences matter for fair competition. And forcing girls to be spectators in their own sports is completely at odds with Title IX, a federal law designed to create equal opportunities for women in education and athletics. Connecticut’s policy violates that law and reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women.
ADF attorneys are also asking the court to halt enforcement of the CIAC’s policy while the lawsuit moves forward, allowing a chance for Selina and Chelsea to compete on a level playing field during their final year in high school.
Women have made significant strides in the world of athletics. But now, activists are seeking to deny women and girls a level playing field. It’s time to stand up for common sense and reality, and ensure that women and girls enjoy the fair and equal athletic opportunities promised to them by Title IX.