© 2024 WYPR
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Transgender Athletes Face Legal Challenges

Maia Weinstock via Flickr (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0)

As seemingly every part of the American landscape has been touched in some way by the culture wars, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that sports have become the latest battleground.

Try as we might to keep some areas above the progressive vs. conservative fray, the fights have made their way to the athletic playing field level.

The current face off is over the propriety of whether transgender girls and women can compete in school sports with women and girls who are not transgender. 


Not surprisingly, the Trump administration, through the auspices of the Education Department, is willing to take up arms in this matter. 

In case you’re wondering which side the administration is on, consider that as recently as two weeks ago, the Health and Human Services Department sought to roll back nondiscrimination protection in health care and health insurance from LGBTQ citizens. 

The athletic fights are being played out in Connecticut and Idaho, in both policy and the law.

In Connecticut, state education policy has allowed for the participation of transgender students in high school sports for seven years, predating the Trump administration.

Yet, the Office of Civil Rights in the Education Department, has given the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and officials from six Connecticut cities until later this month to either change the policy or face possibly losing federal funding.

The premise of the admonishment is that permitting transgender athletes to compete in girls events would be tantamount to allowing boys to play against girls, violating the spirit of Title IX.

It’s an argument that an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian conservative legal group, made in a lawsuit filed by three girls contesting the policy.

The ADF, which has been labeled as an extremist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its filings against LGBTQ citizens, is seeking to have transgender athletes barred from further competition and to have their records stricken from record books.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed in federal court, seeks to overturn an Idaho law which bars "students of the male sex" from playing on athletic teams or sports "designated for females, women or girls."

The law, known as the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, was signed by Idaho Gov. Brad Little in late March. It takes effect next month and permits gender verification, meaning the checking of peoples’ genitals to confirm their biological sex.

The Trump administration, through the Education Department, has weighed in supporting the Idaho law, which was passed over unanimous Democratic objections. 

The law would supersede NCAA policy, which permits transgender athletes to participate. In protest, more than 400 college athletes signed a letter, calling on the NCAA to yank all championship events out of Idaho next year.

That would affect first and second round men’s basketball tournament games scheduled to take place at Boise State next March. 

Now that this battle has been joined on diamonds and tracks and fields, get ready for a long and protracted fight with one party sure to be hurt more than others: the athletes themselves.

And that’s how I see it for this week. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games…whenever they return.



Get in touch


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @SportsAtLarge

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.