In a report published this week, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights recommends that eligibility regulations for women athletes like those enforced by World Athletics, track and field’s global governing body, be revoked immediately.
The regulations target women athletes with some variations in their sex characteristics that cause their natural testosterone levels to be higher than typical. The regulations deny these women the right to participate as women for running events between 400 meters and 1 mile unless they submit to invasive testing and medically unnecessary procedures. There is no clear scientific consensus that women with naturally occurring higher-than-typical testosterone have a performance advantage in athletics. There are no similar regulations for men.
These regulations rose to prominence as a result of the decade-long controversy surrounding South African runner Caster Semenya, who lost her appeal for equal treatment in the Court of Arbitration for Sport last year. Semenya’s case came in the wake of another groundbreaking fight against gender discrimination in sports by courageous Indian sprinter, Dutee Chand. Runners in Kenya, Burundi, and Uganda have also been negatively affected by the regulations.
The UN’s report roundly criticizes the regulations, saying they “create the risk of unethical medical practice” by blurring the line between informed consent and coercion and encouraging medically unnecessary procedures (a critique the World Medical Association issued previously). The report also points to the power imbalances between the doctors affiliated with sporting bodies and athletes, saying: “in sport, such power imbalances are compounded by athletes’ dependency on the sports federations requiring such medical interventions and the frequent absence of adequate and holistic support during the decision-making process.”
These regulations are stigmatizing, stereotyping, and discriminatory, and have no place in sport or society. They amount to a policing of women’s bodies on the basis of arbitrary definitions of femininity and racial stereotypes.
The report authors call on sporting bodies such as World Athletics and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to carry out “in conjunction with athletes, public education campaigns to counter gender-stereotyped and racist attitudes to address negative and stereotypical portrayals of women and girl athletes in the media, including attitudes about appropriate norms of femininity.”
Indeed, as the convener of global sport, the IOC should lead in upholding human rights.
Lesbian athletes Billie Jean King and Megan Rapinoe are calling on the National Collegiate Athletics Association to move a major basketball competition from Idaho in the wake of the state enacting a law barring transgender girls from playing in school sports.
In a letter dated June 10, the athletes ask to “move all NCAA championship events in 2021 out of Idaho,” which is currently set to host the 2021 Men’s Basketball Championship that year.
“As the unifying governing body of college athletics, the NCAA has tremendous power in setting the standard for how values of diversity and inclusion can be reflected in policies and practices, and inspiring athletes, teams, schools and other institutions to do the same,” the letter says. “This is the time for the NCAA to stand with us on the right side of history, in support of the rights of all athletes in Idaho to compete in the sports they love.”
Nearly 50 professional, Olympic and Paralympic athletes signed the letter, including Jason Collins, the first openly gay man to play men’s professional basketball, and Chris Mosier, a transgender advocate and triathlete.
Separate letters from advocacy groups and more than 400 college student-athletes were made public Wednesday also denouncing House Bill 500, an anti-trans measure quietly signed into law by Idaho Gov. Brad Little at the height of the coronavirus crisis, and they call on the NCAA to move sports events out of the state.
The law requires college and public school sports teams to be designed as male, female and co-ed — and any female athletic team “shall not be open to students of the male sex.”
In the event of a dispute, a student may be required to produce a physician’s statement to affirm her biological sex based on reproductive anatomy, normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone and an analysis of the student’s genetic makeup.
That would effectively ban transgender athletes from participating in sports. Although similar measures had been percolating in state legislatures, Idaho is the first state to enact such a law.
Hudson Taylor, executive director of LGBTQ group Athlete Ally, said in a statement the athletes against House Bill 500 “took a powerful stand in support of trans athletes having equal access and opportunity in sport.”
“With one unified voice, professional athletes, student athletes and advocacy groups are demanding the NCAA stand on the right side of history by reaffirming their commitment to ensuring sport is safe and welcoming for all, and that trans athletes are able to be fully who they are on and off the playing field,” Taylor said.
Prior to the enactment of House Bill 500, Idaho High School Activities Association already had in its rules a requirement that transgender girls “complete one year of hormone treatment related to the gender transition before competing on a girls team.”
According to the Idaho Statesman, IHSAA says as of March 2020 it had “received just a couple of inquiries about Idaho’s policy and has fielded occasional calls about potential transgender athletes over the past five or six years, but so far, Idaho has not had an athlete use the policy.”
Although the NCAA hasn’t yet indicated it would move sports events from Idaho over enactment of House Bill 500, the organization did issue a statement against the law, according to advocacy groups.
Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director for policy and action with the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement the sports league should back up its earlier stated opposition with action.
“Transgender athletes deserve the same dignity and respect entitled to all NCAA athletes. Because of HB 500, that simply isn’t possible in Idaho,” Heng-Lehtinen said. “We applaud the NCAA for speaking out against HB 500 and now encourage them to back up their words with action.”
If the NCAA decides to move sports events from Idaho over the law, it wouldn’t be the first time the league has taken such action over an anti-trans measure.
When North Carolina passed House Bill 2, which prohibited transgender people from using restrooms in government buildings consistent with their gender identity, the NCAA joined other sports leagues and businesses in cancelling events in the state.
Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed House Bill 2, lost re-election to now-Gov. Roy Cooper, who worked with the legislature to enact a compromise measure loosening the anti-trans restrictions under the law (although transgender advocates still objected to it).
Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a statement “full participation in school sports is fundamentally a civil and human rights issue.”
“Anti-transgender discrimination has no place in any of our institutions, including school athletics,” Gupta said. “The NCAA must uphold its own non-discrimination policy, and we urge them to relocate games from Idaho while HB 500 is law.”
Meanwhile, litigation against House Bill 500, which was filed in April by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Idaho, Legal Voice, and Cooley LLP, remains pending in federal court.
Arli Christian, campaign strategist for the ACLU, said in a statement “transgender people belong everywhere — and that includes in sports and in Idaho.”
“While the lawsuit against the state of Idaho moves through the courts, it is important for everyone to speak out so that Idaho — and the rest of the country — sees how misguided and dangerous this law is,” Christian said.
The Washington Blade has placed a request with the NCAA seeking comment on whether the organization will move events from Idaho over the anti-trans law.
Connecticut’s policy allowing transgender girls to compete as girls in high school sports violates the civil rights of athletes who have always identified as female, the U.S. Education Department has determined in a decision that could force the state to change course to keep federal funding and influence others to do the same.
A letter from the department’s civil rights office, a copy of which was obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, came in response to a complaint filed last year by several cisgender female track athletes who argued that two transgender female runners had an unfair physical advantage.
The office said in the 45-page letter that it may seek to withhold federal funding over the policy, which allows athletes to participate under the gender with which they identify. The policy is a violation of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that guarantees equal education opportunities for women, including in athletics, the office said.
It has “denied female student-athletes athletic benefits and opportunities, including advancing to the finals in events, higher level competitions, awards, medals, recognition, and the possibility of greater visibility to colleges and other benefits,” according to the letter, which is dated May 15.
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference says its policy complies with a state law barring schools from discriminating against transgender students.
“Connecticut law is clear and students who identify as female are to be recognized as female for all purposes — including high school sports,” the athletic conference said in a statement. “To do otherwise would not only be discriminatory but would deprive high school students of the meaningful opportunity to participate in educational activities, including inter-scholastic sports, based on sex-stereotyping and prejudice sought to be prevented by Title IX and Connecticut state law.”
The federal decision carries implications beyond Connecticut, said Roger Brooks, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the girls who brought the complaint.
“Around the nation, districts are going to want to be reading this, because it does have legal implications,” he said. “It is a first decision from the agency charged with enforcing Title IX addressing the question of whether males on the playing field or on the track are depriving girls of opportunities consistent with Title IX.”
The decision by the civil rights office names the conference, along with the school districts for which the transgender runners and those filing the complaint competed — Glastonbury, Bloomfield, Hartford, Cromwell, Canton and Danbury.
The office said it will “either initiate administrative proceedings to suspend, terminate, or refuse to grant or continue and defer financial assistance” to the conference and those districts or refer the cases to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In its letter, the civil rights office said that it notified the athletic conference and the school districts of its pending decision in February, but that later negotiations failed to result in an agreement.
“All that today’s finding represents is yet another attack from the Trump administration on transgender students,” said Chase Strangio, who leads transgender justice initiatives for the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT and HIV Project.
“Trans students belong in our schools, including on sports teams, and we aren’t backing down from this fight,” Strangio said.
The dispute, already the subject of a federal lawsuit, centers on two transgender sprinters, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, who have frequently outperformed their competitors, winning a combined 15 girls state indoor or outdoor championship races since 2017, according to the lawsuit.
The ACLU’s lawyers for the transgender athletes have argued both are undergoing hormone treatments that have put them on an equal footing with the girls they are competing against.
Brooks said he hopes the judge in the lawsuit will take the Education Department decision into consideration.
One of the plaintiffs, Chelsea Mitchell, won two state indoor title races over Miller this year.
Mitchell, a senior, said Thursday that she is both happy and relieved by the Department of Education’s decision.
“It feels like we are finally headed in the right direction, and that we will be able to get justice for the countless girls along with myself that have faced discrimination for years,” she said. “It is liberating to know that my voice, my story, my loss, has been heard; that those championships I lost mean something.”
The plaintiffs sought to block the participation of Miller and Yearwood, both seniors, from spring track meets, which were later canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They were also seeking to erase all records set by the transgender athletes.
Connecticut is one of 18 states, along with Washington, D.C., that allow transgender high school athletes to compete without restrictions, according to Transathlete.com.
Several other states have polices barring the participation of transgender athletes, and Idaho recently became the first to pass a law banning transgender women from competing in women’s sports.
The ACLU and Legal Voice filed a federal lawsuit contending that law violates the U.S. Constitution because it is discriminatory and an invasion of privacy.
This is being done in the name of safety and fairness in sport for cisgender women and girls.
But the scientific evidence for excluding trans women and girls from sport on the basis this will maintain fairness for cisgender women and girls doesn’t exist, as Dr Vinny Chulani, director of the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Adolescent Medicine Program, explained in an interview yesterday with them.
“This is a decision that is really not based on science,” said Chulani, an esteemed practitioner in the field of LGBT+ care.
“There are so many characteristics that contribute to excellence in sports. And the same attributes don’t always carry over from one sport to the next. You need different skills for golfing than you need for archery, basketball, soccer, or gymnastics.
“Plus, there’s not really any sound body of evidence that speaks to the advantage that testosterone confers. When you take a look at some of the studies that have been done on transgender females in terms of their athletic ability, it overlaps with the range that you would find in cisgender women.
Chulani added that there were huge misunderstandings about sex, gender and bodies among legislators and those advocating for the exclusion of trans women from sport.
“Bills like Idaho’s fail to recognise the diversity within the transgender female population.
“They also fail to understand the biology of puberty and where we are presently in terms of treatment, specifically with puberty blockers.
“Remember that when you take a look at pre-pubertal bodies, assigned male and assigned female bodies look a lot alike; it’s not until puberty that they go their different ways under the influence of sex steroids…
“Nowadays, if you have a patient in early puberty who was assigned male at birth and has gender distress or gender questions, we can use puberty blockers to suppress male puberty.
“They would not develop the traits that would theoretically afford them the advantage. Yet this child, under Idaho law, would still be excluded.”
Chulani went on to talk about what he sees as a huge problem with the bill – how to implement a law that will “force women to prove their womanhood”.
With the burden of proof on those accused of not being women, those who cannot afford blood tests or genital exams to offer up medical evidence to schools and colleges that they are female will not be able to play sports.
“The other thing that’s crazy about this is that it’s being applied to kids in K-12,” Chulani said.
“That means the rules for participating in K-12 sports will be more stringent than those governing the Olympics.”
Finally, Chulani said, it’s important not to lose sight of what this bill really is: part of a larger anti-trans movement.
“This law in Idaho has to be viewed in the context of the march that we are seeing in legislative houses across the country,” he said. “Let’s not be ignorant, right? This is part of a larger anti-transgender agenda.”
Former US open-runner Scott Piercy lost several major endorsement deals Thursday for sharing a homophobic meme targeting former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and referencing far-right conspiracy theory QAnon.
Golf apparel brands Titleist and FootJoy, both owned up retailer Acushnet Holdings Co, alongside Swedish fashion house J Lindeberg, all dropped Piercy, Reuters reported.
“Whenever I post,” he wrote, “my intent is NEVER to offend. I want to apologise if any of my recent [sic] story posts have been offensive.
“I will do better!”
But the apology did little to minimise detractor’s fury. Titleist confirmed Tuesday it terminated Piercy’s contract, with FootJoy following.
Speaking to Morning Read, the 41-year-old acknowledged his “terrible lack of judgement” at sharing the meme.
Shortly after, clothing maker J Lindeberg issued a statement Thursday saying it had ended its contract with Piercy, too.
“When we choose our ambassadors, we choose individuals we know will represent us well on and off the golf course,” the statement read.
“The claims from Scott Piercy were unacceptable and far from our views and beliefs.
“We, J Lindeberg, as a company do not stand by the statements made by Piercy and we want to make sure our customers, employees, and other ambassadors know we support all communities and have no room for hate or discrimination in our company.”
Moreover, the star may face disciplinary action from the PGA Tour, according to ESPN, which said in statements it is “disappointed in the lack of judgement used” and that representatives had “addressed with Scott directly”.
The Arizona House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a controversial measure that bans transgender students from joining sports teams that do not align with their “biological sex.” The bill, which was passed by a deeply divided house with a majority Republican 31-29 vote, will now be sent to the state Senate. State Rep. Nancy Barto (R-AZ) proposed the measure, which will mandate public and private schools—including colleges in universities—to designate sports teams as either male or female based on how the law defines “biological sex.” Barto’s initial proposal required students to present a doctor’s statement that details their “internal and external reproductive anatomy” and “normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone.”
Democrats condemned the practice as invasive and Rep. Daniel Hernandez (D-AZ) called it the “show me your genitals law.” The revised bill will require students who want to participate in sports to take a genetic test. “We’re policing gender,” said Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez (D-AZ). “We’re trying to decide if that person is feminine enough or not feminine enough and we’re using that to justify subjecting our transgender athletes to additional barriers to participating in sports.”
The fairness of transgender athletes competing in women’s sports will be under the microscope in Australia on Sunday when New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard continues her bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
Hubbard, who competed in men’s weightlifting competitions before transitioning seven years ago, will lift in the women’s 87-plus kg division in the Australian Open in Canberra on Sunday.
She kept her Olympic hopes alive by winning last month’s World Cup in Rome where she lifted 270kg, edging Ukraine’s Anastasiia Lysenko by 4kg.
The Australian Open offers another chance for 42-year-old Hubbard to shore up ranking points in qualifying, which requires lifters to compete in at least six events in an 18-month period before the Games.
Hubbard is eligible to compete in women’s events, according to the International Weightlifting Federation’s guidelines for the inclusion of transgender athletes. She is also eligible to lift at Tokyo if she qualifies.
The International Olympic Committee’s guidelines, issued in 2015, allow any transgender athlete to compete as a woman provided their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months before their first competition.
Some scientists have criticized the guidelines, saying they do little to mitigate the biological advantages of those who have gone through puberty as males, including bone and muscle density.
Sports like weightlifting, which place a premium on strength, are at the center of the debate.
Hubbard’s participation in women’s events has dismayed rival lifters and their coaches.
Her gold medal wins at the Pacific Games in Samoa last year, where she topped the podium ahead of Samoa’s Commonwealth Games champion Feagaiga Stowers, triggered outrage in the island nation.
Australia’s weightlifting federation sought to block Hubbard from competing at their home Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018 but organizers rejected their bid.
Australian former track athlete Tamsyn Manou, who won three Commonwealth golds competing as Tamsyn Lewis from 1998-2006, said on Thursday that women needed to “take a stand” over the inclusion of transgender athletes in their sports.
“There’s been a lot of people who are scared to come out and say anything because of political correctness,” Manou told local radio station 2GB.
Qualifying for Tokyo would be a triumph for the media-shy Hubbard, who thought her weightlifting career was over after suffering a serious arm injury at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Coming back from surgery, she has had unwavering support from Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand for her Tokyo bid.
“Nothing has changed for us,” Simon Kent, OWNZ’s head of high performance told Reuters. “We are still following the same parameters we have since the get-go. We follow the IOC protocols and as Laurel said, she meets (them).”
“I trained hard. I got lucky. I dodged injuries. I raced a lot, and it worked out for me.
“That’s the story for a lot of other people, too.”
Susan Hazzard, the US team’s track and fields spokesperson, said: “To my knowledge, and that of other staff who have been with USATF for many years, we do not recall a trans competitor at our marathon trials.”
Megan Youngren said she was prepared for criticism, but that she had “done everything by the book” and could show it.
She also said it was important to her that she’s open about being trans, because “that’s the only way you can make progress on stuff like this”.
As far as training goes, Youngren said “there are days when my feet are sliding around in the snow. My lungs hurt because it’s cold and I’m wearing all these layers” and it’s then that she asks herself: “Am I really getting that much faster?
“Then it warms up a bit for a day and I go, ‘Oh, my God. I am actually getting faster. This is working.’ As far as getting on the starting line in Atlanta, I am super excited because training is going so well.”
With the news that this weekend’s live broadcast of Super Bowl LIV will feature at least eightLGBTQ-inclusive ads, it’s fitting to pause and take a moment to appreciate how far we’ve come in the struggle for LGBTQ acceptance – even if it’s only to remind ourselves that, no matter how disheartening the political tides may be, there is still reason to hope that support for the community continues to grow within the culture at large.
On Friday, GLAAD issued a statement marking what they called “an unprecedented level of LGBTQ inclusion” scheduled for Sunday’s FOX airing of the NFL championship game, as well as the milestone represented by San Francisco 49ers coach Katie Sowers, who is the first out LGBTQ woman to serve as a coach in a Super Bowl game. They also took the opportunity to give the homophobic conservative advocacy group One Million Moms a taste of their own medicine, announcing they had launched petition a calling for the organization to “call it quits.”
The statement included comments from GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, who said, “The level of diverse LGBTQ inclusion from at least seven brands during advertising’s biggest night, coupled with Katie Sowers’ trailblazing role on the field as Offensive Assistant Coach of the 49ers, mark a rainbow wave at the Super Bowl this year.”
GLAAD went on to chart some of the progress that has been made in LGBTQ representation by advertisers on the Super Bowl broadcast, citing a 2007 Snickers ad depicting two men who become disgusted when they accidentally kiss, a Coca-Cola ad from was celebrated for an ad featuring a diverse collection of American families, a Coca-Cola ad from 2014 that featured a family with two dads, and another from 2018 that used gender-neutral pronouns.
In addition, the LGBTQ media advocacy organization noted several out LGBTQ celebrities who have appeared in Super Bowl commercials over the years, such as RuPaul (who was the first drag queen to do so, twenty years ahead of this year’s ad featuring “Drag Race” alumni Kim Chi and Miz Cracker), Ellen DeGeneres, Neil Patrick Harris (who has appeared twice), and Carson Kressley, who co-starred with Cindy Crawford in a 2005 Diet Pepsi ad.
The brands offering this year’s eight LGBTQ inclusive ads, as noted by GLAAD, are:
Pop Tarts (with Jonathan Van Ness) Sabra (with Kim Chi and Miz Cracker, former contestants on “RuPaul’s Drag Race”) Microsoft (with 49ers coach Katie Sowers) TurboTax (with Trace Lysette and Isis King, as well as other LGBTQ members of the ballroom community) Doritos (with out Grammy-winner Lil Nas X) Olay (with Lilly Singh, out bisexual host of NBC’s “A Lilly Late with Lilly Singh,” and the host of the GLAAD Media Awards in New York on March 19) Amazon Alexa (with Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi Budweiser (with married World Cup champs officially designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ hate group. In the petition, OMM raises issue to the commercial’s inclusion of drag queens Kim Chi and Miz Cracker, saying, “Normalizing this lifestyle is contrary to what conservative, Christian parents are teaching their children about God’s design for sexuality.”
In response to OMM’s latest in a long history of failed campaigns against brands that have taken steps toward LGBTQ inclusion, GLAAD announced that it has launched its own petition, blasting the organization for claiming a mission to “stop the exploitation of children” when “nearly all of their public work and actions center on targeting brands/networks that include LGBTQ people in programming or ads,” and calling on them “to pack it up and go home.”
Ellis commented, “Leading brands have learned that fringe anti-LGBTQ organizations like Monica Cole and so-called One Million Moms project of the AFA, are not a reflection of where Americans are. Family-friendly brands today include all families, including LGBTQ ones.”
When the eight scheduled LGBTQ-friendly commercials air during Sunday’s game between the 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs, it will mark a record level of inclusivity for ads airing during the Super Bowl.
As Ellis puts it, “Now, American families will see and cheer on LGBTQ icons… it’s about time.”
Below, you can watch Little Nas X star opposite movie icon Sam Elliott in his Doritos ad, which will air during the Super Bowl LIV broadcast on Sunday, February 2, at 6:30pm ET.
The Arizona legislation allows only biological women or girls to play on female teams, and requires a doctor’s note to prove a person is female if their birth sex is disputed. It allows lawsuits by students who believe they’ve missed opportunities because a transgender person is on a school team.
The measure is intended to prevent female athletes from being forced to compete against biological males, Barto said in a statement. It would apply to K-12 schools, community colleges and state universities but only to female teams.
She said most people view the issue as one of basic fairness.
“When this is allowed, it discourages female participation in athletics and, worse, it can result in women and girls being denied crucial educational and financial opportunities,” Barto’s statement said.
Several national women’s rights and sports organizations are pushing back, saying in a letter distributed by the American Civil Liberties Union that barring transgender people from sports teams aligning with their gender identity often means they are “excluded from participating altogether.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a federal discrimination complaint on behalf of Connecticut girls who competed in track-and-field. The girls say the state’s inclusive policy on transgender athletes has cost them top finishes and possibly college scholarships.
“Forcing female athletes to compete against biological males isn’t fair and destroys their athletic opportunities,” attorney Matt Sharp, the ADF’s state government relations director told The Associated Press in an interview for a recent news report. “Likewise, every child deserves a childhood that allows them to experience puberty and other natural changes that shape who they will become.”
Conservative groups are also pushing bills that would bar doctors from providing them certain gender-related medical treatment.
The proposed laws, if enacted, “would bring devastating harms to the transgender community,” Chase Strangio, a transgender-rights lawyer with the ACLU.
“It is hard to imagine why state legislators have decided to prioritize barring transgender young people from sharing in the benefit of secondary school athletics or disrupting medical treatment consistent with prevailing standards of care,” Strangio said. “But here we are, the start of the session, a time to fight.”
The measure doesn’t apply to males, Barto said, because they are “biologically different from females in terms of bone density, lung capacity, strength, and other respects, are not disadvantaged by females in boys’ sports.”
She had no Arizona examples of girls or young women impacted but pointed to issues in Connecticut and the ADF lawsuit.