Two trans high school athletes in Connecticut have hit out a federal discrimination complaint filed by fellow high schoolers which claims they have an unfair advantage in sports.
Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, who are both accomplished sprinters, condemned the ‘painful’ complaint and said they are ‘lucky to live in a state that protects [trans] rights’.
They released their statement through equal rights NGO, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Three female students from their school filed the lawsuit against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) earlier this month.
The CIAC – which follows statewide anti-discrimination laws – is a rule designed to protect the rights of trans people in the state. This policy allows athletes to compete in sports which correspond with their gender identity.
The three students, who participate in track and field sports, claim trans athletes at their school have had an unfair advantage in sports, which has cost them top-place finishes. They also say it may affect their college scholarship applications.
The three students’ lawsuit is being handled by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative Christian law firm. Miller and Yearwood were identified in the ADF’s complaint.
‘I have faced discrimination in every aspect of my life’
In her statements released on Wednesday (19 June), Yearwood describes having ‘faced discrimination in every aspect of my life’ as a trans girl.
‘I no longer want to remain silent,’ she adds. ‘I am a girl and I am a runner. I participate in athletics just like my peers to excel, find community and meaning in my life.
‘Living in a state that protects my rights is something that I do not take for granted. So many young trans people face exclusion at school and in athletics and it contributes to the horrible pain and discrimination that my community faces.’
Miller’s description of the discrimination she has faced was echoed in a concurrent statement from Yearwood.
‘It is so painful that people not only want to tear down my successes but take down the laws and policies that protect people like me,’ Yearwood’s statement reads.
‘I will never stop being me! I will never stop running! I hope that the next generation of trans youth doesn’t have to fight the fights that I have.
‘I hope they can be celebrated when they succeed not demonized.’
Alongside Miller and Yearwood, Chase Strangio, the Staff Attorney with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, also released a statement condemning the federal discrimination complaint.
‘Attacking two advantage women who are simply participating in the sport they love just because they are transgender is wrong, it is dangerous, and it distorts Title IX, which is a law that protects all students on the basis of sex,’ Strangio said in his statement.
‘They might as well just say women don’t exist as a category’
In their lawsuit, the ADF claims that allowing trans girls to compete in sports corresponding with their gender identity potentially deprives their cisgender counterparts of ‘opportunities for participation, recruitment, and scholarships’.
Prior to the complaint, the mother of one of the girls had begun circulating a petition which sought to alter state legislature on trans rights.
The petition argued that unless trans athletes have undergone hormone therapy, they should be made to compete as their birth gender.
The ADF claims that the student, Selina Soule, has feared ‘retaliation’ over her mother’s actions.
‘We never got anywhere with the CIAC,’ Soule told The Courant about her mother’s petition.
‘The genders are segregated for a reason,’ Soule added. ‘They might as well just say women don’t exist as a category.’
Trans participation in sports
Trans participation in sports has become an increasingly divisive topic in recent years.
A number of former athletes have publically stated their opposition to allowing trans women to compete in female sporting events. This includes long-distance runner, Paula Radcliff, tennis star, Martina Navratilova, and former Olympic swimmer, Shannon Davies.
Critics have argued that trans women would have an advantage over cisgender women because their bodies are naturally larger or stronger.
Trans rights advocates have disputed that trans athletes are inherently advantaged. They have argued that concerns over trans athletes often come from preconditioned assumptions, and point out how few trans sporting champions there are.
Medical experts have also found that trans women who regularly take estrogen do not have an advantage.
In 2016, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) began allowing athletes who are transitioning from male to female to participate without restriction.
IOC rules state that those transitioning must maintain their testosterone levels below a certain level for at least 12 months.
However, there have been instances where trans athletes have lost out on titles because of their gender identity.
In May, a trans woman powerlifter was stripped of four championships after breaking four world records. Mary Gregory’s titles were revoked after 100% Raw Powerlifting Federation president Paul Bossi described her as ‘a male in the process of becoming a Transgender female’.