USA, clash between Democrats and Republicans over trans people in women's sports

In America, the issue of male bodies in women's sports categories has enormous political significance. The House, on a Republican proposal, has passed a bill banning male-born men from competing with women, but President Biden has announced that he will veto it if the rule also passes the Senate. Meanwhile, twenty states are already moving in this direction and the overwhelming majority of public opinion -including Democratic voters divided on the issue- is in favour of competitions based on biological sex.
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It was just passed in the House of Representatives the bill HR 734, known as the Protection of Women and Girls in Sport Act 2023. Supported by the Republicans, is summarised as follows on the government websiteThis bill generally prohibits school athletics programmes from allowing individuals whose biological sex at birth was male to participate in programmes designed for women or girls."

But a few days ago thePresident Biden has made it known that if the bill is also passed in the Senate, he will veto it.

The issue of transgender, or transhuman, touches many areas of life and society, but sport is one of the most important politically because it captures people's attention. And if you add the issue of the education of young people -carious to a country where many families claim the right to educate children according to their own values, and where at the same time excellence in sport can lead to rapid social ascent - the question becomes hot.

In many states -by now more than twenty- the Republicans have picked up the requests from young female athletes (as the former "fastest girl in Connecticut") and approved read to 'save women's sport' at least at the school level, so that male bodies are not allowed to compete with girls by stealing trophies from them, which then translate into scholarships and opportunities to enrol in prestigious universities. Bill HR 734 would like to do the same at federal level.

But the trans-lobby -which has had the Democratic Party as its political interlocutor since the time of trans-President Obama- opposes this by bandying -out of hand- the word 'rights'.

Biden made himself the voice of the trans-lobby, presenting in its official statement law HR 734 as a tentative of 'discriminating against transgender girls', a false statement because subjects remain free to practise sport by competing in their birth category: men. Or confronting the girls but out of the competition, in a way that does not deprive girls of the opportunities offered by competitive sport.

So Biden, with a certain amount of forcing, seeks to present itself as a 'mediator' of transgender rights and the rights of women and girls -in fact, the Democratic Party che tries to win the vote of women by promising to legalise abortion again, after the Republicans' move to set aside Roe v. Wadenever made into law.

Biden though He never mentions girls or schoolgirls in his statement, and uses strictly neutral language. He is concerned, however, that transgender students -'even primary schools students', Biden specifies - are not denied the opportunity to 'play on a team consistent with their gender identity', thus refusing to recognise the importance of bodies and sexual difference, which has always been the guiding criterion in sport.

La mediation between the rights of girls (rights based on sex) and those of boys who feel they are women (based on gender identity) would concern the development of ill-defined 'rules of participation that are fair and take into account particular sports, levels of education and levels of competition'.

But, as you will read below, there can be no equity in a competition between male and female bodies.

Maria Celeste


In the United States Bill HR 734 takes the issue of transgender athletes to the highest level, biologically male. The issue in itself should not be approached on the basis of left- and right-wing alignments - as is not the case, for example, with doping - since it is essentially a matter of ensure equity and protect a women's right obtained 50 years ago with Title IX.

Title IX was introduced to ensure equal sports opportunities for girls compared to boys in schools and colleges and has enabled great progress in the number of participating girls, women's teams and public interest and funding for women's sport.

Nancy Hogshead-Makar, A former three-time Olympic champion swimmer, she is one of the leading Title IX specialists and has long warned of the discrimination that occurs whenever a male athlete is entered against female athletes, supported by hundreds of Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

Unfortunately his appeal and that of many other associations defending women's sport (Save Women's Sports, ICFS, Icons Women, Boys vs Women, etc.). was not listened to.

The Department of Education on 13 April published a proposal to amend the interpretation of Title IX with pseudo-compromise language so as to allow sports participation rules based on biological sex only if 'justified by an educational objective', thus opening up participation of male bodies based on self-perception. An incomprehensible move from a sporting-ethical point of view, which harms female athletes with the very legislative instrument that should protect them.

If this proposal passes, it would move towards 'case-by-case' participation rules, with a predictable long series of legal cases of alleged discrimination (see here).

Leaving these decisions to the judges is not a good idea at allexample: think of Judge Patrick Diamond's ruling banning all activities of the USA Powerlifting in the State of Minnesota for 'discriminating' against a biological male who identifies as a woman in a weightlifting competition (see here). But it only takes a quick search to know that males have on average a 30-40% advantage over females in weightlifting.

But the most relevant news comes on 17 April: in a communiqué The US Administration makes it known that it strongly opposes HR 734, a bill to protect girls and women in sport, classifying the bill as discriminatory and going so far as to warn that if it reached President Biden he would veto it.

If at the federal level the veto announcement is bad news, this is at least partly compensated by individual states that are moving to pass laws with the aim of protecting women's sport: there are currently around 20 of them and they could become the majority in the coming months (see here).

If common sense is not enough to make sound decisions, one can go further by listening to science. The unfair advantage is proven by 16 scientific studies, all agreed that male bodies continue to have an advantage over women even after reducing testosterone levels over a long period (6 months to 14 years).

The ethics and values of sport require that there be no unfair advantagecompeting in a category other than that of biological sex goes against this principle. This becomes particularly evident when analysing the ranking positions before and after the 'transition', which are not at all similar: The case of Will/Lia Thomas, who went from 462nd in the USA to 1st in the women's ranking, is emblematic.

But talking about the unfairness of male bodies in women's races is almost taboo in the USa fortnight ago the athlete Riley Gaines, one of the swimmers harmed by Thomas's participation, was assaulted, insulted and threatened at San Francisco State University, where he was describing his experience and claiming the right to participate in competitions under fair conditions (here the news).

Sometimes iniquity is compounded by the risk of physical harm to women competing with trans-athletes, particularly in contact sports. For example, in October 2022 Payton McNabb suffered physical and psychological injuries following a dunk by a transgender volleyball player in North Carolina.

If common sense, science and the values of sport were still not enough, one should at least take into account democracy and theopinion of the majority of the population: in the United States, the vast majority of citizens (58% - 17% PEW 2022; 62% - 34% Gallup 2021) is for sporting competitions in the biological sex category, almost all among the Republican electorate and with the Democratic electorate split on the issue.

Similar percentages are also found in other countries, with an even more pronounced difference. Interesting is the trend recorded by YouGov at United Kingdom, not only the majority is for women's sport to be women-only, but thehe support becomes more overwhelming as time passes: the gap was 21% in 2018 and becomes 45% in 2022 (61% - 16%). (See here.)

There is therefore no intention to deprive anyone of the right to practise sport as is often said in bad faith, but rather to continue the practice of sport within the category as is also the case without objection for age, disability, weight, etc. Gender perception as well as religion, political views, sexual orientation, etc. are not relevant in the sports categories.

It is the voices of transgender people themselves who express their opposition to this 'inclusion'. Caitlyn Jenner former Olympic champion said: 'It is a question of fairness and we must protect women's sport in our schools. So too Renée Richards, who played women's tennis matches in the 1970s despite being biologically male, has in more recent years claimed to be agreeing with Martina NavratilovaWhen it comes to sport, it is a question of biology and fairness. This clears the field of specious accusations of transfobia also because it does not concern those who call themselves transgender but the presence of male bodies in female sports (not vice versa).

When federations set inadequate rules and the aggrieved athletes who demand fairness are not listened to, it has become necessary to protest actions by athletes to denounce unfair rules. Notable among these is theinitiative of self-id as a provocation by New Zealand's strongest lifter, who, following the procedure, was able to enter the women's races and is preparing to break all women's records in June unless there is a hasty turnaround by the organisers (see here).

LItaly is not without its criticalities: solved at least for now the case of unfairness of Valentina Petrillo thanks to the decision of World Athletics, there remains partial and deficient information on the subject, e.g. almost invisible the news of Hubbard winning the World Cup at Rome in 2020 (cat. 87+ kg) or the participation of the cyclist Kate Weatherly in Val di Sole at the Mercedes Benz UCI World Cup in 2018 and 2019.

Marco Alciator


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