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  • Writer's pictureCarimah Townes

Title IX: 4 Stories and Trends to Follow When School Is Back in Session

Updated: Apr 1

(Originally published on August 8, 2022)

When Title IX turned 50 in June, advocates for women, girls, and LGBTQ+ students in sports celebrated decades of progress and recognized how much work is left in the fight for gender equity and inclusion. We expect to see additional progress, and challenges, to equity and inclusion at all levels of sport during the 2022-2023 school year.

Here are 4 Title IX stories and trends to follow:

#1. The Department of Education will likely consider new Title IX rules to protect LGBTQ+ athletes.

The Biden Administration recently proposed changes to Title IX regulations, including undoing discriminatory rules that were imposed by the Trump Administration. One proposed change would ensure that transgender students have fair and equal access to public school facilities that align with their gender identity. The rule change would, for the first time, expressly “protect LGBTQI+ students from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics.” Although the proposed rule change doesn’t directly address eligibility criteria for school athletics, the Department of Education plans to propose a more specific sports guidance in the near future.

#2. Politicians will continue to target trans youth, including student athletes, leading up to (and after) the midterm elections under the guise of protecting women's sports.

18 states ban transgender athletes from playing on teams that match their gender identity, due in large part to the years-long legislative battle to strip transgender youth of their basic rights. Lawmakers have implemented these bans under the pretense of protecting equality and fairness in girls’ sports, even though there is no evidence that trans inclusion is a threat to sports.

This trend has disastrous consequences for all women and girls in sports.

Despite the known benefits of participating in sports, such as positive health outcomes and an increased sense of belonging, LGBTQ+ students are already left out because of their identities. Per data from the Trevor Project, only 12% of trans girls participate in sports. Among them, 21% were dissuaded from playing and 58% were barred from using gender-affirming locker rooms. Targeting trans athletes will adversely impact all girls who don’t fit in with stereotypical notions of femininity and further alienate transgender and nonbinary students.

Targeting trans athletes will also direct attention away from well-documented, systemic challenges that all women and girls in sports have expressed for decades: equipment and facilities in poor condition compared to men’s facilities, fewer opportunities to play for a team at the secondary and collegiate levels, fewer scholarship opportunities, and more.

#3. Opportunities to play sports in school will come — and go — for girls at the elementary, secondary, and collegiate levels.

Despite Title IX, there are still major disparities in the number of athletic opportunities that girls have compared to boys, never mind the disparate treatment they face within athletic programs. According to a Women’s Sports Foundation report, high school boys have 1.16 million more opportunities to play sports each year than high school girls. Within the NCAA, men have roughly 148,030 more opportunities than women.

We’re thrilled to see athletic programs creating new opportunities for women and girls, like the new girl’s wrestling teams at the high school and collegiate levels in York County, Pennsylvania, or the triathlon, golf, and acrobatics teams added to Duquesne University’s program. Meanwhile, universities have attempted to gut their women’s teams in recent years, only reversing course when threatened with lawsuits. A number of teams have slashed women’s teams in response to the ongoing pandemic. The dual trends of adding and dismantling teams are sure to continue over the next year.

#4. Athletes and allies will use their voices and bodies for change.

By now, the idea that athletes should “shut up and dribble” should be a thing of the past. Athletes cannot remove themselves from the climate in which they live or simply ignore their identities for the sake of the game. They actually have the power to change society in and through sports (that’s our vision statement, after all).

Sex discrimination still runs rampant in sports, but students aren’t taking it quietly. Athletes and their supporters have mobilized against anti-trans athlete bans, sexual assault, dress codes, and cuts to girl’s sports teams over the past few years. There will undoubtedly be additional protests at the secondary and collegiate levels during the upcoming year. This new wave of activism will definitely change the game.

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