Cis Women Are Trying to Weaponize Title IX Against Trans Athletes

Four former student-athletes from Connecticut want to block all trans girls from competing in high school girls' sports.

Cis Women Are Trying to Weaponize Title IX Against Trans Athletes
Chelsea Mitchell, Selina Soule and Alanna Smith, three former Connecticut high school track athletes, during an anti-trans “Our Bodies, Our Sports” rally for the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Photo:Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images (Getty Images)

In the ongoing war against trans youth—which is fueled entirely by hateful conservative moral panic—yet another battle is being waged against trans athletes’ right to participate in high school sports. This time, however, rather than trans athletes seeking to be included, a group of cis women from Connecticut are convinced that competing against trans girls deprived them of equal opportunities.

Four cisgender plaintiffs—Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, Ashley Nicoletti and Alanna Smith, all of whom have already graduated—argue that Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood “deprived” them of trophies, wins, and public recognition in high school track competitions, a federal appellate court heard in arguments on Thursday. The suit revolves around the role of Title IX, the law that prohibits educational institutions that receive federal funding from discriminating against students on the basis of sex. While Title IX is generally used as a tool to argue for equal funding and opportunities for women’s sports—which have historically received far less in scholarships and athletic budgets than their male counterparts—this particular case seeks to use Title IX as a weapon against trans girls.

Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian institute representing the plaintiffs, argued that Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s current policy allowing trans athletes to compete based on their gender identity violates the rights of cis athletes. Competing against Miller and Yearwood, the complaint said, left the plaintiffs with “materially fewer opportunities to stand on the victory podium, fewer opportunities to participate in postseason elite competition, fewer opportunities for public recognition as champions, and a much smaller chance of setting recognized records.”

The ADF claimed that one 2019 race in which Mitchell placed third behind Miller and Yearwood caused Mitchell “irreparable harm.” Not winning first place, the suit argues, impacted her college acceptances and “employment opportunities”—never mind that all four cis women received scholarships to run track in college, and three are currently part of NCAA Division 1 track and field programs. Miller and Yearwood, on the other hand, were not offered athletic scholarships. “As a result of this whole process, they’re not competing in sports at all,” their representative from the ACLU said.

Rather, it’s trans girls, the ACLU says, who continue to suffer “irreparable harm” due to the U.S. political system treating their bodies like bargaining chips, rather than human beings who deserve an equal shot. According to the ACLU, there are no out trans girls currently competing in Connecticut student athletic competitions.

Regardless of the impending outcome, the lawsuit has already been cited in states like Kansas and North Dakota as evidence for passing more statewide trans athlete bans (34 have considered anti-trans legislation in some form), and the ADF has helped craft model legislation for anti-trans bathroom bills across the country. Advocates on both sides, the Washington Post wrote, say the case has been “instrumental in shaping the public narrative about trans girls in sports”—that is, by exaggerating the scope of a relatively tiny group of trans kids and by demonizing girls who have done nothing but ask for the right to run and swim and play just like their cis classmates.

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