High school sports have always been an opportunity for athletes to showcase their skills to their peers, parents and for some, college scouts. But as soon as transgender athletes start to shine in competitions, the system is pressed for change and pushed toward one that will restrict the rights of transgender people to participate with the gender they identify as.
The changes being pushed are unfair to transgender athletes. Denying the athletes the right to play on a sports team with the gender they identify as discourages them from playing in a sport and can lead to psychological and emotional damage. The rules that prevent transgender students from playing may deny them all the advantages of sports, including exercise, stress relief and fitting in with a community. With an alarmingly high suicide rates — a Pediatrics study found 61% of transgender adolescents had suicidal thoughts during their lifetime — the transgender community should not be denied these opportunities to improve their mental health.
Discriminating against transgender students in high school sports is also a violation of Title IX, a federal civil rights law that makes it clear that no one in the US should be denied participation from “any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance” for reasons based on sex. While “sex” remains undefined in Title IX, Washington D.C. and some states interpret it as the gender by which one identifies. Sports programs in public schools are undeniably education activities that are paid for by the government, and therefore transgender students should be allowed to participate freely with their gender identity.
The basis of this unjust discrimination arises from trans- gender male-to-female athletes dominating many compe- titions due to “unfair advantages” that come from having higher levels of testos- terone, but many experts and law- makers refute these concerns, stating the movements being made for “fairness for female athletes” are being taken too far. The important issue at hand isn’t the competition and glory, it’s giving all athletes, all people, the chance to fit in where they belong. True fairnesss a choice to participate based on who you are.
With 17 states lead-ing the way by allowing all athletes to participate based on their gender identity, it’s time for other states to step up in the name of fairness and equality for all.