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A.G. William Barr: Don’t treat transgender girls as girls

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief this week in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by three cisgender athletes in Connecticut, who say it’s unfair for them to compete against trans girls.

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Attorney General William Barr waits in the press briefing room of the White House March 23, 2020, in Washington, D.C.
Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

The steady dismantling of the Obama-era rights of transgender Americans continued this week, as U.S. Attorney General William Barr and other officials at the U.S. Department of Justice took the side of an anti-LGBTQ religious legal group in a controversial case: a federal lawsuit that seeks to prevent transgender student athletes from competing according to their gender identity.

According to DOJ’s filing, trans girls are not girls; they are “biological males” who “publicly identify as female.”

The lawsuit was filed last month by three cisgender high school girls in Connecticut with the help of the Alliance Defending Freedom, an extremist hate group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Families of 3 Connecticut students sue to block transgender athletes from girls sports
Canton High School senior Chelsea Mitchell speaks during a press conference with Alanna Smith, Danbury High School sophomore, to her left and Selina Soule, Glastonbury High School senior, to her right at the Connecticut State Capitol Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, in downtown Hartford, Conn.
Kassi Jackson/Hartford Courant/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

They claim Connecticut’s policy allowing trans girls to compete in the same school sporting events robs them of opportunities and is discriminatory.

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Canton High School’s Chelsea Mitchell, left, beat Terry Miller of Bloomfield, Conn., center, on Feb. 14 in the CIAC Class S track and field championships at Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven, Conn.
Photo by Christian Abraham, Courtesy of CT Post, Hearst Connecticut Media, used with permission.

Oh — and then one of the plaintiffs, Chelsea Mitchell of Canton, Conn., — defeated her transgender rivals. She did so twice in 8 days after filing the lawsuit.

What Barr and company has done now, according to the Associated Press, is that he’s signed what is known as a statement of interest, arguing against the policy of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the board that oversees the state’s high school athletic competitions. The CIAC and several local boards of education are named in the suit, which repeatedly misgenders two transgender student athletes, Andraya Yearwood of Cromwell, Conn., and Terry Miller of Bloomfield, Conn.

CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini told the AP his organization wrote its transgender student athlete policy in 2013 with guidance from local and federal Obama-era government leaders. He added that multiple courts and federal agencies, including the Justice Department, have previously acknowledged that the term “sex” in Title IX is ambiguous, and ruled that the statute protects trans students.

Title IX’s historical usage “has not kept pace with contemporary science, advances in medical knowledge and societal norms,” Lungarini said. The Trump Administration’s DOJ, led by Barr, interprets Title IX differently.

“Under CIAC’s interpretation of Title IX, however, schools may not account for the real physiological differences between men and women. Instead, schools must have certain biological males — namely, those who publicly identify as female — compete against biological females,” Barr and the other department officials wrote in their filing. “In so doing, CIAC deprives those women of the single-sex athletic competitions that are one of the marquee accomplishments of Title IX.”

“Males will always have inherent physical advantages over comparably talented and trained girls — that’s the reason we have girls sports in the first place,” said ADF attorney, Christiana Holcomb, in an interview on Wednesday. “And a male’s belief about his gender doesn’t eliminate those advantages.”

Holcomb’s dependence on generalities ignores physical variables in athletes of all genders and reveals her organization’s transphobia in claiming that gender identity is merely a “belief” or a feeling, when it is actually the lived experience of more than a million Americans and more around the world.

The American Civil Liberties Union, whose attorneys represent Miller and Yearwood, told the AP it was deeply troubled that the U.S. government would weigh in to ”make clear that it does not believe girls who are trans enjoy protections under federal law.”

“Our clients are two high school seniors who are just trying to enjoy their final track season of high school and who now have to contend with the federal government arguing against their right to equal educational opportunities,” said Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice at the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, and himself a trans man who recently spoke to Outsports on the Trans Sporter Room podcast.

“History will look back on these anti-trans attacks with deep regret and shame. In the meantime we will continue to fight for the rights of all girls to participate in the sports they love,” Strangio told the AP.

Like Yearwood and Miller, Selina Soule, of Glastonbury, Conn. and Chelsea Mitchell are high school seniors whose track and field outdoor season is on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic. No decision has been made as to when or if they’ll race again this spring. Alanna Smith, a sophomore at Danbury High School, is the third plaintiff.

The ADF attorney, Holcomb, has said because their lawsuit also asks for changes to the state record book, it will go forward even if it is not resolved before the seniors graduate, according to the AP.