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The first half of 2021 has been marked by a series of fierce cultural and legal battles over policies relating to transgender athletes participating in girls’ and women’s sports. More battles loom as the Biden administration and some states take significantly divergent positions on the hot button issue.
One of the first actions President Joe Biden took following his inauguration was to sign an executive order preventing discrimination against people based on gender identity, which said children “should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”
Opponents — including leaders in states such as Florida, Tennessee, and Idaho, and activists including Beth Stelzer — insist that female-identifying biological males playing against women is unfair to biological females.
“We all see it from grade school on, this advantage,” Stelzer, founder of Save Women’s Sports, told the Washington Examiner in an interview.
Stelzer, an amateur powerlifter who has testified before numerous state legislatures on this issue, started the organization in 2019 when transgender lifter JayCee Cooper protested after being excluded from the Minnesota Women’s State Championships due to what USA Powerlifting deemed to be Cooper’s “direct competitive advantage” over female competitors — among whom was Stelzer.
“I thought, certainly more women should speak or be speaking out,” Stelzer said, adding she started the organization to “help elevate women’s voices in this fight to help keep women's sports for only biological females.”
USA Powerlifting still restricts the participation of female-identifying athletes, citing the different bone structures in males and higher muscle mass that can provide a competitive edge over females.
“There’s so many, and they’re immutable,” Stelzer said of the physiological differences. “We can look at bone structure. Our bone lengths are different. So are arms and legs, and then the angle in which they go into the hips [is different] as women are childbirthing. Hand and feet sizes are different.”
Males also generally have larger hearts and lungs, and different hemoglobin levels allow for the transport of more oxygen throughout the body, Stelzer said.
“Women have to deal with pregnancy, menstruation, menopause, and that’s a reality that males will never have to face, and it is a big hurdle sometimes for female athletes,” she added.
Current policies on transgender athletes vary by state and sporting organization. The International Olympic Committee, for example, allows them to participate in women's events so long as their testosterone measures below 10 nanomoles per liter, a requirement which Stelzer criticized.
"Lowering testosterone level does not make a woman. Women are not a hormone level," she said.
The federal government also sets its own policies through its various agencies. Last month, the Education Department announced it would interpret Title IX, a law passed in 1972 prohibiting sex-based discrimination in federally funded education programs, to protect people from discrimination based on their gender identity. It was one of a series of administration moves heralded by groups advocating for the inclusion of transgender athletes in women’s sports.
"Banning trans youth from sports and denying trans youth health care violates the Constitution and federal law," said Chase Strangio, deputy director for the ACLU's Trans Justice initiative, in a statement after the Justice Department declared its position that two state laws relating to transgender people, including one in West Virginia banning transgender athletes from competing in women's sports, are unconstitutional.
"We hope that state legislatures finally get the message,” Strangio added.
Stelzer argued the administration is "basically erasing the borders of what biological sex is" with its interpretation of Title IX.
"And so, not even 50 years, we have been trying to get equality, and now we’re erasing that,” she said.
Many Republican-led states moved to restrict or ban female-identifying athletes from playing against females this year, even while critics say or suggest politicians are overstating the issue related to competitiveness across the sports landscape.
"The few that we do see entering are dominating," Stelzer said, pushing back on the notion by pointing to two high school transgender athletes in Connecticut who together had won 15 girls' state championship races as of May 2020. "It may just be a handful, but one girl losing out is too many, in my opinion."
“There’s no asterisk by their name to tell future generations of females that those were set by male bodies, not female bodies," she added.
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Original Author: Jeremy Beaman