Illustration for article titled Teens Sue to Prevent Trans Runners From Beating Them in Competitions
Photo: CT Mirror

The families of three runners at a Connecticut high school, with help from the Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBTQ nonprofit, have filed a federal lawsuit against the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and the boards of education in five districts.  The suit contests the presence of two transgender athletes at high school sporting events, arguing that they have “deprived” female athletes of “track titles and scholarship opportunities” and created an unfair field of competition, according to AP. The families’ attourney, Christina Holcomb, argues that having trans and female athletes in competition together is a violation of Title IX, saying that it “forces girls to be spectators in their own sport.” 

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The Connecticut lawsuit specifically targets two trans sprinters, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, both seniors, who have frequently competed against the plaintiffs and won. This is often how sports works; sometimes, there are winners and losers. Nonetheless, the plaintiffs and the ADF are pursuing the lawsuit after an initial Title IX complaint against the athletes. The American Civil Liberties Union will represent Miller and Yearwood, arguing that such treatment violates a Connecticut school policy, which says that “students must be treated in school by the gender with which they identify.”

This anti-discrimination policy doesn’t appear to sit well with Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, and Alanna Smith, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, along with their families, who are seemingly unable to get past not winning races. “Mentally and physically, we know the outcome before the race even starts,” Smith said at a press conference in Hartford, “That biological unfairness doesn’t go away because of what someone believes about gender identity. All girls deserve the chance to compete on a level playing field.”

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But there is no such thing as a truly “level playing field” in any sport: A competitor will always have an edge, whether it be money, or height, or access to fancy teams and coaching staff. Shannon Bobbitt is one of the shortest players in the WNBA, coming in at 5'2", a “biological” disadvantage in a sport that favors taller women. She has yet to bring forth a suit to ban the genetic composition that makes Diana Taurasi six feet tall. The beauty of competition is knowing that someone might be better for reasons beyond your control and still doing whatever it takes to beat them. That this same logic, that top-notch athletic competitors come from a host of different backgrounds, should be abandoned when a trans-athletes competes in the gender with which they identify is to spit on the basics of sports. If you want to be the best you have to beat the best, that philosophy does not change because you disagree with your opponent’s gender identity.

Stepping into a competition with a mindset of loss is the fault of that person alone. It is not a guarantee that a transwoman will win a competition over a cis-woman, based solely on an absolute idea of testosterone levels (see Ashlee Evans-Smith v. Fallon Fox). Walking into competition with a defeatist attitude because your opponent has a better record or better athletic capability is not a reason to file a lawsuit.

“Our dream is not to come in second or third place, but to win fair and square. All we’re asking for is a fair chance,” Chelsea Mitchell said of the lawsuit. Winning fair and square means competing against the best. But a fair playing field requires outperforming your peers, which include Miller and Yearwood, athletes who are not only training to be the best in their sport, but who are being thrust into the national spotlight where they’re being expected (as teenagers) to be the representatives for young trans athletes across the country. It’s hard to imagine “fair” as a word anyone can use in this situation.

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