Women’s History Month: Supporting Transgender Athletes
By Amanda Bule, SIECUS Policy Intern
It’s Women’s History Month! At SIECUS, we’re committed to celebrating intersectionality as we highlight gender equality. Recent years have seen great accomplishments in pursuit of a more equitable society. Ketanji Brown Jackson was nominated to the United States Supreme Court early this year, and if confirmed, would serve as the first Black woman sitting on the Court. In 2021, Kamala Devi Harris became the first female, African American, and Asian American vice president of the United States. In 2019, Sharice Davids became the first openly gay Native American woman elected to Congress. At the state level, women have been making incredible strides as well. RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Honey Mahogany was elected as Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, serving as the first Black, transgender member to hold this position.
While there is much to celebrate this Women’s History Month, it is essential to acknowledge the disproportionate discrimination transgender women face. Transgender women are particularly susceptible to employment discrimination, domestic violence, and housing insecurity due to pervasive transphobia. The feminist movement, as well as society at large, often question transgender identity. Most recently, transgender girls are facing discrimination in sports with harmful legislation regulating participation on teams by biological sex. Several states have pushed anti-trans sports ban bills under the guise of protecting women’s rights. In 2021, 34 states introduced 147 anti-transgender bills. The Trevor Project found that the introduction of these bills resulted in 85% of transgender or non-binary youth reporting a negative impact on their mental health.
All young people should have the opportunity to participate in team sports. These experiences create chances to practice leadership, build confidence and self-discipline, and develop relationship-building skills. Transgender and cisgender youth are seeking these opportunities that often serve as the core foundation of a well-rounded childhood. Everyone wants young people to be able to participate on an even-playing field in sports. Children have varying abilities across all athletics, regardless of gender identity, orientation, or expression. Successful team sports are often the result of practice, discipline, and access to proper equipment and coaching.
The 2021 Olympics served as an important example of transgender representation in women’s sports. Laurel Hubbard, Alana Smith, and Chelsea Wolfe competed in the games this past year, and all serve as important role models representing the transgender and non-binary communities. The Tokyo Olympics were the first games with such representation, even though openly transgender athletes have been permitted to participate since 2004. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) should serve as an essential example to the United States in their acknowledgement of transgender and intersex athletes. Their new Framework on Fairness, Inclusion, and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations prompts individual international federations to create their own policies regarding eligibility to compete, rather than having a blanket set of criteria across sports. The previous framework used testosterone levels to determine one’s eligibility to participate in women’s sports. The IOC has determine 10 principles for individual international federations to base their policies on, including: inclusion, prevention of harm, non-discrimination, fairness, no presumption of advantage, evidence-based approach, primacy of health and bodily-autonomy, stake-holder centered approach, right to privacy, and periodic reviews.
While the onslaught of anti-transgender legislation across the country can feel discouraging, the advocacy of the IOC serves as a glimmer of hope. The theme of Women’s History Month 2022 is “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope”. We must use these words as encouragement in seeking fairness and equality within women’s sports. Transgender athletes deserve justice. You can support efforts to fight against harmful legislation by following this action guide. Further resources to get educated on why trasngender youth deserve access to gender-affirming athletics can be found via resources from the Human Rights Campaign and the Center for American Progress.