It’s about bodies, not identities
Sex-based sporting competition was important enough for Congress to pass a law protecting it, and that law remains as important as ever.
The latest edition of the Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy includes a very informative and rigorously fair article explaining the history and purposes of Title IX.
“Re-Affirming the Value of the Sports Exception to Title IX’s General Non-Discrimination Rule” is free to read at this link.
Duke law professor Doriane Lambelet Coleman, Dr. Michael J. Joyner of the Mayo Clinic, and college sports management professor Donna Lopiano describe the original debate over the language of Title IX, which is echoed in the current debate over transgender inclusion.
On one side were those who held that “sex differences were entirely the result of disparate treatment and sex stereotypes, both of which could be eradicated over time,” leading to a glorious future of all-coed sports. “In their view, like the classroom, eventually sport could also be sex-blind” in categories of competition. This has turned out to be the naive view.
On the other side were those who understood that the performance gap between men and women was not entirely a social construct, but in fact the result of “immutable biological differences” in our sexually-dimorphic human species.
This is the argument which won out in drafting Title IX, not just in 1972 but also in 1988, when its sex-based protections were restored against bureaucratic shenanigans over Ronald Reagan’s veto. It also happens to be thoroughly proven by decades of historical data.
Like it or not, “female sport is by design and for good reasons, a reproductive sex classification,” they write.
These reasons have nothing to do with transphobia and everything to do with the performance gap that emerges from the onset of male puberty. Whether one is trans or not, if one is in sport and cares about sex equality, this physical phenomenon is undeniably relevant. Changing how we define “female” so that it includes individuals of both sexes, and then disallowing any distinctions among them on the basis of sex, is by definition and in effect a rejection of Title IX’s equality goals. Whatever their earlier allegiances, and however they would seek to re-tool the relevant vocabulary to obscure this point, we should be clear that those push for these changes today are committed to sex neutrality, not to sex equality.
Note that Title IX specifically carves out sports for women and girls as an exception to its otherwise sex-neutral provisions. Congress clearly intended this law to create opportunities for people with female bodies, not female “identities” or minds or souls or personalities.
It is impossible to overstate the effect this would have on sports for women and girls. Coed competition can never, ever be fair to females; in contact sports, it is actually dangerous.
The performance gap is so wide, and so persistent, that if women and girls were forced to compete in sex-neutral competitions, they would never win anything at all.
Just by letting a single male-bodied athlete compete against female-bodied athletes, the rights of the latter group are diminished.
“It is weakening the commitment to females and to sex equality to accept that the boys’ state championship will probably always be won by a male where the girls’ state championship will not always be won by a female,” the authors explain.
Going out of their way to apologize for using clear language — “we mean no disrespect,” they say three times — Coleman, Joyner, and Lampiano make an honest effort to restate the argument for change.
They recognize “inclusion” of transgender athletes as a laudable social goal and acknowledge that pediatric transitioners will lack the testosterone advantages of puberty.
Yet such advances cannot come at an unacceptable cost for women and girls, they say. Well-meaning mantras such as “trans girls are girls” cannot justify giving the girls’ medals, trophies, and scholarships to boys.
We must find another way to include transgender athletes.