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Red States Move to Block Biden Administration’s Title IX Revisions: Why Does the Right Care So Much About Trans Athletes?

Compilation of Fox News segments on Transgender athletes
YouTube/Fox News

GOP protests against Biden’s Title IX revisions are just another expression of transphobia for the far right. But these lawsuits are having tangible effects.

In April, the Biden administration released edits to the landmark gender equity legislation Title IX, preventing schools and colleges across the U.S. from enacting outright bans against transgender athletes. At this point, 26 Republican-led states have filed suit against the revisions, which are set to take effect on Aug. 1. Federal judges have halted the regulations in Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, West Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, and Idaho thus far, with more rulings expected by the end of the summer. 

Their efforts paid off. In a move largely seen as a political one, to avoid dissent from GOP-lead states ahead of the fall election, Biden’s Education Department has scratched the Aug. 1 deadline for schools to end any outright bans against transgender athletes. A new date has not been released. Yet, at least two dozen of the aforementioned states are still suing over a different aspect of the Title IX edits—one that does not mention transgender athletes specifically.

The US Department of Education Logo alongside the American flag
Biden’s Department of Education has received hundreds of thousands of comments on the new regulations, according to a spokesperson. Shutterstock/Danielo

Legally, What Are the Title IX Suits Relying Upon?

The revisions subject to continued lawsuits are still set to take effect August 1. They more broadly expand Title IX, which has historically barred sex-based discrimination, to include a ban against discrimination on sexual orientation and gender identity as well. Interestingly, states are suing under the guise of protecting women’s rights, saying these revisions misrepresent Title IX’s intended purpose of guaranteeing equal opportunities for female students and student-athletes and are, therefore, unconstitutional. 

“This rule may likely cause biological females more discrimination than they had before Title IX was enacted,” wrote Judge Terry A. Doughty, a district court judge in Louisiana who placed a preliminary injunction on the enforcement of the rules in Lousiana, Mississippi, Idaho, and Montana. Doughty’s comments fit into a slew of backlash from Republican attorneys and lawmakers– “The idea that young girls can now be legally forced to undress in the same room with males in what is supposed to be a safe space like a locker room is ludicrous,” said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.

Religious protesters clash with Pride March attendees in Florida
Florida is a hotbed for anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, as seen across this month’s Pride celebrations. Shutterstock/Anastasiia Shadrina

Where Do Title IX Attacks Fit Into GOP Agendas?

Firstly, transgender people make up a little more than 1% of all Americans ages 13-24, according to estimates by UCLA Law’s Williams Institute. It can be assumed an even smaller number participate in athletics. Secondly, much of the backlash to these Title IX revisions shows a denial of the validity of transgender folks from the Republican party. Attorney General Moody’s comments are incorrect to anyone who understands that a transgender person choosing to use a locker room that aligns with their gender identity is equivalent to a cisgender person making the same decision. 

Many of those who have pushed back against these Title IX revisions have not been able to cite examples of ‘unfairness’ in their own states but rather have resorted to mentioning high-profile cases, such as that of swimmer Lia Thomas. The sparsity of which transgender athletes are performing at high levels speaks to the idea that the pushback against this legislation is simply another example of GOP-led states attaching transphobia to their political agendas. For a population in which half contemplated suicide in 2023, according to research by The Trevor Project, this is a dangerous trend.

Sign that says Protect Trans Youth
The Trevor Project found that transgender and nonbinary youth were 2.5 times as likely to attempt suicide compared to their cisgender LGBTQ+ peers. Shutterstock/Big Pix Photography

Trans Advocates Speak Out

Lia Thomas, the transgender athlete made the subject of pushback to the Biden administration’s Title IX revisions, was the first openly transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship in 2022. In the summer of 2022, after her NCAA win, she was the subject of dozens of Fox News campaigns devaluing her win. On June 12, she lost a request for arbitration on a ruling that barred her from competing in this summer’s Olympics. “Before I came out, I couldn’t visualize a future. After coming out and being my authentic self, I could really start to see a future. I’m a woman, just like anybody else on the team,” said Thomas to Sports Illustrated.

“It’s about creating an enemy and using transgender people, who are just trying to go about our lives, for political gain. [The GOP’s] message is penetrating the American consciousness not because their message is better. It is louder because they have the money to reach more people.” 

Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement to VICE News
Transgender athletes Lia Thomas and CeCé Telfer
Lia Thomas and CeCé Telfer have both faced death threats after rising to stardom in their respective sports. Credit: Mike Comer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images and Rudy Gonzalez/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

CeCé Telfer, a track and field star who made history as the first openly transgender person to win an NCAA Championship, has also been the subject of a public smear campaign since her win.  “The fact that people are powerful enough to move backward is scary, not only for transgender women, but it should be scary for society at large because people think that anti-trans advocates are going to stop at transgender women. No. They’ve always been policing women’s bodies. It’s going down to cis women and what’s going on in their lives and their bodies,” she said in a June interview with Them. Telfer’s point comes at a time when abortion bans are yet another part of the GOP’s agenda approaching the November election.

What’s Next For Title IX?

While the Biden administration’s revision mentioning transgender athletes specifically has been delayed, the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity to Title IX statutes is still set to take effect on Aug. 1. But many of the states who are suing have publicly said they will not follow Biden’s rules once the end-of-summer deadline rolls around. In a May letter to Texas colleges, directing them not to comply with the new legislation, Governor Greg Abbott wrote, “President Biden wants to force every school across the country to treat boys and men as if they were girls and women, exceeding his authority as president to impose a leftist belief on the next generation.” 

Not to mention, a bus coined “Take Back Title IX” is currently weaving its way across the country, led by former representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. Gabbard, also a potential Vice President pick for Former President Trump, has made clear her bus will stop in states with tight congressional races this fall, intending to show voters the GOP cares about ‘protecting’ the integrity of women’s sports. Trump has even promised that if elected, he will overturn Biden’s revisions on “day 1.”  

Tulsi Gabbard sponsored legislation in 2020 that would have banned transgender athletes from college sports altogether
Tulsi Gabbard sponsored legislation in 2020 that would have banned transgender athletes from college sports altogether. Shutterstock/Consolidated News Photos

Hope Ahead For Transgender Community

Yet, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, there is still hope ahead. “This is the very first generation in America that is even reckoning with the concept of transgender rights in the public domain. Even if people have a negative opinion, they’ve only had it for the equivalent of 30 seconds,” said Heng-Lehtinen. “Therefore, they are more persuadable today than they ever will be. The ground is fertile for us to change their minds.” When voting this fall, it is more important than ever to think critically about what our politicians are promising. Clearly, the safety of the trans community matters minimally to the most outspoken GOP voices.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Matthew

    July 5, 2024 at 6:44 pm

    Very interesting read, thank you!

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