The Future of Women’s Sports: The Debate Over Title IX and Gender Identity Intensifies

Riley Gaines | Source:

Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other education program that receives federal funding, is at the center of a heated debate. The Biden administration’s proposal to expand the law’s definition of sex to include “gender identity” has sparked controversy. If approved, the changes could make it illegal for schools to prohibit transgender students from participating in sports that align with their gender identity.

A recent congressional hearing on the matter witnessed an intense exchange between former NCAA swimmer and advocate, Riley Gaines, and Democratic Representative Summer Lee of Pennsylvania. Rep. Lee suggested that the testimonies opposing the proposed changes might be filled with “transphobic” and “hateful misinformation.” In response, Gaines stated, “And Ranking Member Lee, if my testimony makes me transphobic, then I believe your opening monologue makes you a misogynist.” This statement led to further argument, but no official action was taken against Gaines’ words.

The crux of the issue lies in the potential impact these changes could have on women’s sports. Gaines, along with other witnesses, argued that not separating sports by sex could harm female athletes. They pointed to studies that highlight the physiological differences between male and female athletes post-puberty, even after hormone treatments. The witnesses also claimed that female athletes could lose scholarship opportunities, face invasion of privacy in locker rooms, and risk physical harm from biologically male opponents.

One case cited by Gaines involved a North Carolina volleyball player who suffered a serious injury after being hit by a ball spiked by a transgender male player. The injury resulted in long-term concussion symptoms and partial paralysis.

Sarah Parshall Perry of The Heritage Foundation, another witness at the hearing, supported the separation of sports by sex, arguing that it is common sense and widely supported by the American public. Perry noted that nearly two dozen states have already passed legislation to protect female sports, which could face “significant financial harm” under the proposed Biden rule change.

However, supporters of the Biden proposal argued that those opposing it were exhibiting “bigotry” and “transphobia.” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even suggested that supporting sex-separated sports is akin to supporting racism. Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, echoed this sentiment, arguing that rules protecting women’s sports disproportionately affect black and brown people.