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  • Writer's pictureRaina Desai

The Tension Between Title IX and Transgender Athletes

Updated: Jan 28

A rising debate within amateur athletics is whether to allow transgender athletes to compete on the gender of team they were not biologically assigned to at birth, but now identify with. [1] Currently, 31 states have introduced bills to exclude transgender youths from participating on teams that match their gender identity. [2]

Support for the new bills comes from Title IX funding and the consequences and unfairness of allowing trans girls to play on female teams.[3] Conversely, there is plenty of support from professional athletes and medical associations to allow trans-friendly sports leagues. These organizations are pressuring courts to prevent states’ anti-trans-friendly sports bills from passing. Overall, it is important to be aware of the vulnerability and stigma surrounding the trans community and understand the continuing trends surrounding the amateur trans-athlete community.

[4] Trans youth are one of the most vulnerable groups in the country. [5] They often suffer from gender dysphoria which is the psychological distress felt when someone’s gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. [6] Additionally, since trans youth experience bullying and humiliation in educational settings, those students are a high-risk group for mental health issues and self-harm. [7] In fact, trans youth are four times as likely to suffer from depression than their cisgender peers. As a result, trans youth have found a healthy outlet in playing sports. However, a major problem exists when the government tells a trans student that their identity does not matter and they cannot participate on the teams they identify with like the rest of their peers. Thus, the introduction and passing of anti-trans sports leagues legislation has created a major stigma and significant stress and depression within the trans athlete community.

[8] Currently, states have filed over 250 bills affecting the LGBTQ community, including 120 anti-trans bills. [9] Many of these bills call for the bar of trans youths in school sports in order to protect the integrity of sports for women. The issue has even surfaced at the federal level. [10] Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville, proposed an amendment to the COVID relief legislation that would deny Title IX funding to schools that allowed students who were male at birth, to participate in sports programs for females. [11] Although the Senate defeated the proposal by a 50-49 vote, the issue further exemplifies the government’s interest in barring trans youth in sports. The debate is fueled by Title IX because the Title IX itself was established to promote equality within student athletics. [12] Proponents of anti-trans bills argue that there are physical advantages for transgender females that would promote unfairness within female sports. Thus, allowing trans people to play on teams that match their gender identity, would violate Title IX and destroy the level playing field the law was passed to protect. [13]

On October 25, 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbot, signed House Bill 25 into law which placed restrictions on transgender student athletes’ participation in sports. [14] The bill states that trans youths must play on the team that coincides with the gender written on their birth certificate in order to ensure fair competition in girls’ sports and to uphold Title IX. [15] Furthermore, in March 2020, Idaho passed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act prohibiting trans women student athletes from competing on women’s sports teams. [16] If one’s sexual status is challenged, the law requires the individual to undergo a sex verification exam. [17] The Idaho law also allows cisgender females to sue schools that allow trans women to compete. [18] Currently in Idaho, a transgender woman has filed suit against the state claiming the law violates equal protection under the Constitution. [19] Although the U.S. District Court granted a preliminary injunction against the law, the matter has been appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Although there are tons of obstacles in front of transgender youth athletes, they receive just as much support. [20] The ABA House of Delegates supported the issue by approving Resolution 609 to oppose all legislation, regulations, and policies that ban transgender students from participating in athletics. [21] Further, many professional athletes, businesses, and medical associations have shown support for trans youth athletes. [22] In fact, many healthcare organizations have filed amicus briefs opposing the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. Clearly, there is documented evidence for equality within trans-friendly sports. [23] Additionally, the IOC has recently replaced its 2015 policy of demanding transgender and intersex athletes to have testosterone levels below a certain threshold. [24] Instead of requiring these athletes to go through this testing process, they now are pushing the responsibility for making gender policies to the global governing bodies of each sport. [25]

In conclusion, there is a long road ahead for the trans community to receive competition equity in sports. As evidenced by the Idaho law and given the number of students voicing their support for the issue, there is just as much support behind trans athletes as there is legislation against them. Kids just want to be kids, and no matter their gender identity, it is essential that sports remain an outlet for all to enjoy.


[1] Robert, A. (October 1, 2021). ABA House votes to oppose laws that ban transgender student-athletes

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Hudson Jr, D. (August 1, 2021). States drive wave of bills affecting transgender youths

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Mental Health and LGBTQ Community

[8] Hudson Jr, D. (August 1, 2021). States drive wave of bills affecting transgender youths

[9] Id.

[10] Robert, A. (October 1, 2021). ABA House votes to oppose laws that ban transgender student-athletes

[11] Id.

[12] Block, M. (May 3, 2021). Idaho’s Transgender Sports Ban Faces A Major Legal Hurdle

[13] Waller, A. (October 25, 2021). Restrictions on transgender student athletes’ participation in school sports signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott

[14] Id.

[15] Hudson Jr, D. (August 1, 2021). States drive wave of bills affecting transgender youths

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Robert, A. (October 1, 2021). ABA House votes to oppose laws that ban transgender student-athletes

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] Carpenter, L. (2021, November 17). IOC no longer will determine transgender athlete eligibility by testosterone levels. The Washington Post. Retrieved December 21, 2021, from

[24] Id.

[25] Id.

[DB1]Or “match their gender identity”

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