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Nikki Haley Calls Trans Inclusion in Sports 'Attack on Women's Rights'

Nikki Haley

The former governor and ambassador joins the right-wing chorus of alarmist rhetoric on trans female athletes.

Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has joined the chorus of those claiming President Joe Biden's support of transgender rights will destroy women's sports.

"Across the sporting world, the game is being rigged against women and in favor of biological men," Haley, considered a rising star in the Republican Party, wrote in a commentary published Monday on the National Review's website.

"President Biden is the latest man to do the rigging, which is strange coming from someone billed as a defender of women," she continued. "In one of his first acts as president, he signed an executive order paving the way for a federal mandate that all schools receiving federal funding let biological men play on women's sports teams. The order was framed as a matter of transgender rights. But really, it was an attack on women's rights."

Haley claimed, "In states where biological boys compete against girls, the girls almost always lose -- not just the match, but also possible college scholarships and a lifetime of success in their favorite sport."

However, her article linked to a story about just one state, Connecticut, where trans girls' participation in girls' school sports is the subject of a lawsuit. The story mentioned one trans girl who won the state championship in a track and field event two years in a row but another who finished third and fourth in a couple of state-level events. So the latter didn't beat all cisgender girls.

On a broader level, the American Civil Liberties Union has pointed out that only a handful of trans female athletes have had success in high school and college sports in the U.S., even though hundreds, perhaps thousands, of them are competing. No out transgender athlete has qualified for the Olympics to date, although the International Olympic Committee allows trans women to compete with cis women if the trans women have suppressed their testosterone below a certain level. The National Collegiate Athletic Association lets trans women play on women's teams if they've been on testosterone-suppressing treatment; it's estimated that only about 50 out of 200,000 collegiate women athletes are trans.

Activists and many scientists note that both cis and trans athletes can have advantages for reasons independent of hormones, such as body size and access to training. "A person's genetic makeup and internal and external reproductive anatomy are not useful indicators of athletic performance," Joshua D. Safer, MD, an expert on transgender medicine, has said.

Biden's executive order committing the federal government to fight anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination doesn't impose policies on school districts, but it indicates that where there is discrimination against trans athletes -- or any other LGBTQ+ person -- the government is likely to intervene.

The order does not "erase women," as critics are saying, but means "this administration is prepared to vigorously defend and enforce the legal protections that LGBTQ people enjoy under federal law," the ACLU's Chase Strangio wrote recently.

Rachel Sutherland of Fox News Radio pressed White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on the issue at Tuesday's press briefing, asking what the president's message was concerning trans girls, cis girls, and a level playing field (Sutherland appeared be implying that the playing field was not level when trans girls compete with cis girls).

Psaki replied, "The president's belief is that trans rights are human rights, and that's why he signed that executive order. In terms of the determinations by universities and colleges, I would certainly defer to them."

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