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Connecticut Suit Targets Trans Female Student Athletes

Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller
Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller

A lawsuit filed by an anti-LGBTQ group claims trans girls have an advantage over cisgender girls -- not so, say advocates for trans athletes.

The families of three cisgender female student athletes in Connecticut have sued in an attempt to prevent transgender girls from competing in girls' sports.

The suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Connecticut, asserts that letting trans girls compete against cisgender girls is a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law banning sex discrimination in education, including school sports.

Girls "are now being directly and negatively impacted by a new policy that is permitting boys who are male in every biological respect to compete in girls' athletic competitions if they claim a female gender identity," the suit states.

The suit was brought by the parents of student athletes Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, and Alanna Smith. They are represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has taken up many anti-LGBTQ causes, and the law firm of Fiorentino, Howard, and Petrone. It names as defendants the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and the school boards in Bloomfield, Cromwell, Glastonbury, Canton, and Danbury.

It focuses on two trans female athletes, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood. Both are sprinters who have usually finished ahead of Soule, Mitchell, and Smith.

The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking to join the suit to defend the trans athletes. The ACLU takes issue with the assertion that trans girls have an intrinsic advantage over cisgender girls.

The suit "is a dangerous distortion of both law and science in the service of excluding trans youth from public life," said Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, in a press release. "The purpose of high school athletics is to support inclusion, build social connection and teamwork, and help all students thrive and grow. Efforts to undermine Title IX by claiming it doesn't apply to a subset of girls will ultimately hurt all students and compromise the work of ending the long legacy of sex discrimination in sports.

"Additionally, the language of the complaint, which deliberately misgenders transgender youth and demands that high school athletics be organized by chromosomes, is an assault on the basic dignity and humanity of transgender people and a threat to the privacy and equality of all students."

"The truth is, transgender women and girls have been competing in sports at all levels for years, and there is no research supporting the claim that they maintain a competitive advantage," Shayna Medley and Galen Sherwin wrote in an ACLU blog post last year. "As Yearwood rightfully pointed out, all athletes, cis and trans, compete with different advantages, but only some are questioned: 'One high jumper could be taller and have longer legs than another, but the other could have perfect form, and then do better. One sprinter could have parents who spend so much money on personal training for their child, which in turn, would cause that child to run faster.'"

Miller and Yearwood both spoke out in the ACLU press release. "I have faced discrimination in every aspect of my life and I no longer want to remain silent," Miller said. "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. It is both unfair and painful that my victories have to be attacked and my hard work ignored. I will continue to fight for all trans people to compete and participate consistent with who we are. There is a long history of excluding Black girls from sports and policing our bodies. I am a runner and I will keep running and keep fighting for my existence, my community, and my rights."

"I have known two things for most of my life: I am a girl and I love to run," Yearwood added. There is no shortage of discrimination that I face as a young Black woman who is transgender. ... Every day I train hard -- I work hard to succeed on the track, to support my teammates, and to make my community proud. 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!"

The plaintiffs in the suit also filed a Title IX complaint last year with the U.S. Department of Education, which is investigating the matter.

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