Ever since his day one executive order signaling support for LGBTQ students, President Joe Biden has repeatedly indicated that his administration will be an advocate for the community and transgender athletes.
That pattern continued this past Wednesday when the Department of Education issued guidance that transgender students are to be protected by Title IX while attending public schools.
This marks a substantial change in philosophy from the previous administration. Under former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the Department investigated schools like Franklin Pierce University (the alma mater of trans runner CeCé Telfer), claiming their transgender inclusion policies were in violation of Title IX.
Current Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona is going in a different direction.
“Today, the Department makes clear that all students—including LGBTQ+ students—deserve the opportunity to learn and thrive in schools that are free from discrimination,” Cordona said in a statement.
Times have changed. Cardona’s proclamation makes it clear that Title IX will no longer be wielded as a cudgel to exclude transgender students from equal opportunities on campus. Which, for one thing, means that trans athletes will no longer have to acquaint themselves with the definition of “Orwellian.”
Previously, Cordona expressed support for trans athletes specifically, in an interview with ESPN:
It’s their right as a student to participate in these activities. And we know sports does more than just put ribbons on the first-, second- and third-place winner. We know that it provides opportunities for students to become a part of a team, to learn a lot about themselves, to set goals and reach them and to challenge themselves. Athletics provides that in our K-12 systems and in our colleges, and all students deserve an opportunity to engage in that.
Cardona also referenced last year’s Supreme Court decision that LGBTQ workers fall under the protection of the Civil Rights Act and noted that it influenced his department to issue guidance to protect transgender, lesbian, gay, and bisexual students.
The LGBTQ community appears to have an ally in the Secretary of Education. And since we can now turn on the news without seeing the Secretary of Education attacking the LGBTQ community on the regular, we’re now living in a time where we occasionally have to do a Google search to remember his name.
What all of this means is that the Department of Education is reminding public schools throughout the country that Title IX requires them to ensure that all LGBTQ students feel safe in the classroom, on the playing fields, and everywhere on campus. In an environment where many states have passed anti-trans laws, this guidance is especially important for transgender student-athletes.
The guidance also indicates that any complaints filed regarding anti-trans discrimination will be investigated by the Office of Civil Rights under Cardona’s interpretation of Title IX. What’s more, according to USA Today, UCLA legal director Christy Mallory “suspects specific guidance [regarding transgender athletes] is coming” from the Department of Education.
All of this is welcome news after months of state after state discriminating against trans athletes. It appears Cardona is willing to fight back on the side of inclusion.