The National Women’s Law Center and Women’s Sports Foundation led a letter from women’s and girls’ rights organizations opposing H.R. 734, a discriminatory bill that would ban transgender and intersex women and girls from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity.
Dear Member of Congress,
The National Women’s Law Center and Women’s Sports Foundation, joined by the undersigned women’s and girls’ rights organizations, write to voice our vehement opposition to H.R. 734, “The Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023,” and any other similar effort to ban transgender girls from participating in sports. As organizations deeply committed to fulfilling the promise of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 of equal educational opportunity for all women and girls, including in school sports, we have advocated for gender equity in schools for decades. We support the inclusion of all students, including transgender, intersex, and nonbinary students in school sports as part of this mission. While this bill is framed as “protecting women’s and girls’ sports,” we write to call out this hateful measure for what it actually is: a discriminatory attempt to target an already-marginalized group, rather than to promote fairness and safety in school sports for women and girls. We thus urge you to oppose H.R. 734 and join us in rallying behind all women and girls and rejecting the efforts to enshrine sex discrimination against an especially vulnerable group within Title IX.
H.R. 734 unmistakably constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex. As recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court, numerous Federal courts, and the U.S. Department of Education, sex discrimination includes discrimination based on gender identity and sex characteristics. Title IX’s mandate that all students must be able to access the benefits and opportunities of an education free from sex discrimination includes the right to play sports. It is well documented that sports participation is linked to increased academic achievement, and fosters in students increased emotional, mental, and physical well-being and a sense of community. Amending Title IX to exclude transgender, intersex, and nonbinary students from these essential benefits of sports participation betrays Title IX’s broad purpose to defeat sex discrimination in education in order to further harm these students, who because of stigma and discrimination are already especially vulnerable to isolation and decreased academic performance.
The bill’s title, “Protecting Women and Girls in Sports Act,” is an intentionally deceptive misnomer, as H.R. 734 makes no effort to address the actual, pervasive discriminatory barriers that women and girls continue to face in school athletics. H.R. 734 does nothing to address the fact that college women have almost 60,000 fewer athletic opportunities to play than men, or that high school girls have over 1 million fewer opportunities than boys do to play sports. It fails to take any steps to open opportunities for women and girls of color, who are disproportionately impacted by these disparities in participation opportunities.
H.R. 734 does not advance policies to address the second-class treatment women’s and girls’ teams continue to receive from their schools as compared to men’s and boys’ teams when it comes to facilities, equipment, and travel. Nor does H.R. 734 seek to strengthen protections against the rampant sexual abuse student-athletes of all ages and genders still face. To put it plainly, one would be hard pressed to explain how banning transgender women and girls from playing alongside their peers does anything to address actual problems of sex discrimination in sports.
Transgender women and girls have been playing school sports for years, and claims that they have been unfairly “dominating” competition or excluding their cisgender peers from chances to play are utterly false. Indeed, recent data from the CDC shows that state policies that prevent transgender high school students from playing are correlated with lower participation by all high school girls between 2011 and 2019; meanwhile, participation by all girls remained unchanged in states with policies allowing transgender students to play. H.R. 734’s real purpose is not to expand opportunities for women and girls, but to deny transgender, intersex, and nonbinary students of their right under Title IX to equal athletic opportunities. This bill coopts the language of women’s rights to undermine protections against sex discrimination.
Not only does H.R. 734 fail to address the actual, ongoing problems that limit women’s and girls’ opportunities in school sports, but excluding women and girls who are transgender from school sports invites gender policing that threatens all women and girls. H.R. 734 is vague and unworkable, and could only be implemented by a combination of invasive and harmful practices. There is no principled way to apply the bill’s unclear language to the many girls and young women born with intersex variations, which by definition, are variations in “reproductive biology and genetics at birth.” Similar bans have been widely used to push girls and women born with these variations out of sports opportunities and have chilled their participation in school sports. Additionally, H.R. 734 would inevitably lead to some schools adopting invasive and dangerous “sex verification” practices, which police women and girls’ bodies by forcing them to submit to a variety of humiliating and unscientific practices for the purported purpose of determining whether they are “really” girls or women. These procedures make all women and girls vulnerable to sexual abuse, but are especially likely to be used to target Black and brown women and girls who do not conform to white ideals of femininity, other women and girls who do not conform to sexist stereotypes, and nonbinary and gender nonconforming students. If H.R. 734 becomes law, it would permit school districts, colleges and universities, and athletics associations to become the arbiters of who is “sufficiently” feminine to play, thereby perpetuating harmful racist and sexist stereotypes that punish students for who they are or how they look, and placing students at further risk for sexual abuse.
Transgender and intersex women and girls are women and girls, and should have the right to participate in athletics consistent with their gender identity. The blanket, discriminatory exclusion that H.R. 734 would mandate for every age, every sport, and every level of competition flies in the face of Title IX’s mandate of equal access to educational opportunities. H.R. 734 promotes fear, dangerous stereotypes, and sex discrimination based on misinformation, and it should not become law.
As women’s rights and gender justice organizations, we vehemently reject the dangerous legislation and rhetoric pushed by politicians seeking to marginalize transgender, nonbinary, and intersex people.
Supporting the civil rights of women and girls cannot be separated from championing policies that protect the rights of transgender, intersex, and nonbinary individuals’ rights to be free from sex discrimination, including in school sports. This, at a minimum, includes voicing strong opposition to H.R. 734.
If you have questions about this letter, please contact Emily Martin ([email protected]), Shiwali Patel ([email protected]), and Sarah Axelson ([email protected]).
(See letter and full list of organizations for March 8 letter to the Committee on Education & Workforce)
(See letter and full list of organizations for March 21 letter)