A homeschooling innovation brings opportunity and danger
The fastest times ever run in the girls’ 100 and 200 meters at Connecticut’s State Open high-school track and field championships now belong to a boy.
Coaches, athletes, sportswriters, and even the head of Connecticut’s prep sports governing body recognize some injustice in that. Still, perhaps fearful of being branded bigots, many seem unwilling to fight back against what is becoming a trend in high-school sports.
Terry Miller of Hartford’s Bulkeley High, who is biologically male, set State Open records in the 100 (11.72 seconds) and the 200 (24.17) at Connecticut’s all-school outdoor championship meet in early June. Miller went on to win both events at the more prestigious New England Outdoor Championships on June 9.
The runner-up in the girls’ 100 at Connecticut’s State Open is also transgender: Cromwell’s Andraya Yearwood, who won the 100 and the 200 at Connecticut’s state meet for smaller midsized schools last year (see “Boys against girls,” July 1, 2017), ran the 100 in 12.29 seconds at this year’s Open.
Neither Miller nor Yearwood has begun transitioning from male to female. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) does not require them to do so. One need only self-identify as a particular gender to compete as a member of that gender. This explains why Miller went from competing as a boy during Connecticut’s indoor track season in winter to competing as a girl during the outdoor season in spring.
Miller ran in two relays, but no individual events, at Connecticut’s state indoor meet for midsized schools in February. Miller may not have been fast enough to qualify in individual events when competing against other boys: The sophomore’s times at the state outdoor meet would have placed him well behind the pack in the boys’ 100 and 200.
CIAC Executive Director Karissa Niehoff expressed sympathy for biological girls who were denied the opportunity to advance to the New England championships due to their transgender competitors’ success. At the same time, she was unwilling to state that Miller and Yearwood should not be competing against girls.
“The optic isn’t good,” Niehoff admitted. “But we really have to look at the bigger issues that speak to civil rights and the fact this is high-school sports.”
The question is, whose civil rights?
Congress enacted Title IX in 1972 to ensure that women—that is, biological women—receive the same educational opportunities as men, including participation in interscholastic sports. More than one court has recognized that interscholastic sports are typically sex-segregated for good reason: Physiological differences give boys a significant competitive advantage over girls in athletics, and if boys were free to compete against girls, athletic opportunities for girls would all but perish.
The Obama administration ignored those courts’ rulings in 2016, issuing a national directive to public schools interpreting the word “sex” in Title IX to include “gender identity.” That interpretation conflicts with Congress’ intent in passing the law, and the Trump administration has since rescinded it. Still, 17 states, including Connecticut, have laws requiring transgender “females” to be treated no differently from biological girls, regardless of whether they’ve undergone hormone treatments.
This means runners who are physically male can win state titles at actual girls’ expense.
Glastonbury’s Selina Soule placed sixth in the 100 at Connecticut’s State Open. Her mother, Bianca Stanescu, is circulating a petition asking the state Legislature to pass a law requiring athletes to compete based on their gender at birth unless they’ve undergone hormone treatments.
“Sports are set up for fairness,” Soule said. “Biologically male and female are different. The great majority is being sacrificed for the minority.”