Transgender rights under fire; Lawsuit against athletes in Connecticut

Three high school athletes in Connecticut, USA, have filed a lawsuit threatening transgender athletes eligibility to compete. Represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the suit targets two other high school transgender athletes, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, who are being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The suit claims that allowing male-to-female athletes to compete in women’s athletics events violates ‘Title IX’ – effectively claiming discrimination against women. The ADF claim that female athletes are robbed of opportunities “because of the physical advantages of males”. The lawsuit repeatedly refers to Miller and Yearwood as “male athletes”.

The ADF are a conservative, non-profit organisation, that aims to increase the influence of ‘traditional Christian values’ in American law,  specialising in anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage legislation. The ADF are a multi-million pound organisation, who have previously gotten ten cases brought before the Supreme Court, and they certainly have the assets to do it again.

Transgender rights in sport has always been a confused area, stuck in a milieu of compromise which satisfies very few. However, a slight pattern is emerging of transgender athletes’ rights getting slowly stripped back. World Rugby will “comprehensively review” their transgender policy, in light of new evidence suggesting suppressing testosterone does not have the desired effect. Arizona lawmakers are currently attempting to pass a bill which would almost entirely exclude transgender athletes from women’s sport, and transgender cyclists face harsher restrictions on testosterone levels going forward. 

It isn’t all doom and gloom however; last year, Cricket Australia announced new inclusive measures to allow transgender athletes to play at the cricket’s highest level. Kevin Roberts, CEO of Cricket Australia, aims to “ensure all people in our communities experience Australian cricket’s inclusive culture” whist maintaining “a fair and meaningful competition”.

Transgender rights in sport is relatively nascent ground, but has become a controversial social issue, with credible arguments and concerns about supposed advantages of transgender athletes. Even the Olympics committee have a storied history dealing with protests to South African intersex athlete Caster Semenya. However, Kevin Roberts struck a chord when he emphasised inclusion; this debate is not a choice between transgender athletes or not, despite how the lawsuit in Connecticut may seem. There is room for inclusion, and high-level lawsuits do little but to inflame discourse and suppress the merits of children’s and women’s sport. 

The Alliance Defending Freedom are unfortunately notoriously aggressive and wealthy, so the debate doesn’t look like ending soon. Terry Miller has responded to the lawsuit, saying “The more we are told that we don’t belong and should be ashamed of who we are, the fewer opportunities we have to participate in sports at all.” She continued, stating “I am a runner and I will keep fighting for my existence, my community, and my rights.”


Image Rights: Ted Eytan via Wikimedia Commons