Last week Ohio passed what was called a new low in anti-trans bills. In case, you’re wondering, New Jersey has its own version—the so-called Fairness in Women’s Sports Act introduced in March. Why any lawmaker thinks it is “fair” to subject female athletes to genital examination is truly beyond comprehension. These bills are not about fairness—they are fueled by hate and transphobia.
The historic passage of Title IX, which marked its 50th anniversary a week ago, prohibited discrimintion on the basis of sex in education and became synonymous with female participation in sports. It also meant that in cases where a team for a certain sport did not exist for girls, any girl who wished to play and could qualify, could play on the boys’/men’s team. Thus we have seen cases of women playing baseball, and football on men’s teams. It also meant that if a boy wanted to be part of a girls’ gymnastic team, he could do so. No one has ever raised concerns over this and this has been fairly common practice throughout the country.
The furor over one trans swimmer achieving elite status would have one imagining that high school girls’ teams are being overrun by such athletes. A 2019 CDC study estimated that of the 15.3 million high school students, about 1.8% of them are transgender. The number of athletes within that group is much smaller; a 2017 survey by Human Rights Campaign suggested fewer than 15% of all transgender boys and transgender girls play sports. And yet eighteen states have passed laws to restrict transgender athletes from competing in sports consistent with their gender.
Young people who are questioning their gender and sexuality are already vulnerable for mental health issues and suicide ideation. When a young person has just one person respect their gender choice and pronouns, their risk of suicide is shown to decrease by 50%. As a society and a nation we must call out the inherent transphobia, misogyny, and racism faced by young trans athletes every day. Transgender individuals should be allowed to compete in the sport consistent with their gender same as cisgender athletes. It really is as simple as that.
Anjali Mehrotra is a feminist and activist. She is on the board of the National Organization for Women, and is President of the National Organization for Women of New Jersey. LGBTQIA+ rights and ending gender-based violence are two core issues that NOW advocates for.