EXPLAINER: Title IX update faces polarized challenges

Jun 18, 2022, 8:00 PM | Updated: Jun 19, 2022, 6:42 pm
FILE - Ariel Peters holds an equality sign during a rally to support transgender youths outside of ...

FILE - Ariel Peters holds an equality sign during a rally to support transgender youths outside of the Capitol in Salt Lake City, Thursday, March 24, 2022. (Kristin Murphy/The Deseret News via AP, File)

(Kristin Murphy/The Deseret News via AP, File)

At least 19 states now either bar or limit participation in sports by transgender athletes, who are at the center of a polarizing, politicized debate, even though only a fraction of them are believed to be among America’s 8.5 million high school and college athletes.

Transgender athlete bans are being challenged in court and advocates on both sides are citing or pointing to Title IX, the landmark anti-discrimination law that has protected and helped girls and women since its passage in 1972.

As the 50th anniversary of Title IX approaches, an overview of the debate:


For the purposes of the debate in sports, it has mostly to do with transgender girls or women who went through puberty without hormone treatment and continue to have male hormones in their bodies. This leads to what critics say is a sizable performance gap and unfair competition, even though research on this topic is often in dispute and still taking shape.

Many international sports now require athletes who want to compete in women’s classifications but have certain high levels of testosterone to take gender-confirming hormones for a certain amount of time to be eligible. Perhaps the most prominent case involves South African star runner Caster Semenya, who decided against taking the hormones and missed out on the Tokyo Olympics because of it. Semenya is not transgender, but has what’s known as 46 XY DSD condition.

As for how many transgender athletes are impacted by the state bans, there are no definitive numbers, though Associated Press reporting found the restrictions to be largely a solution in search of a problem.


Most of the 19 states that have put restrictions on transgender athletes tend to vote conservative. Some governors have vetoed bills passed by Republican-controlled legislatures, arguing the laws are unfair to transgender females, will leave states and their school districts vulnerable to lawsuits, and that no problem actually exists. Indiana and Utah are among the states that have overridden their governor’s vetoes.

Transgender athletes in states with bans can challenge then in court or sit out. Some of the legislation calls for what can only be described as invasive proof for an athlete to compete; in Ohio, proposed language said “if a participant’s sex is disputed” a doctor would need to sign off on the athlete’s “internal and external reproductive anatomy” as well as testosterone levels and overall genetic makeup.

In other states, high school athletic associations allow transgender females to compete in girls sports. That has led to a court fight in Connecticut, where a group of cisgender high school athletes said allowing transgender athletes to compete deprived them of track titles and scholarship opportunities. Their attorney, Christiana Holcomb, said the rule “is completely at odds with Title IX” and “reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women.”

The flip side? A lawsuit filed in Florida argues that the state’s ban on transgender athletes participating in girls sports violates Title IX.


Earlier this year, the NCAA said it would set aside its old policy — which was consistent across all sports in requiring transgender athletes to undergo hormone therapy — and adhere to the rules set by each sport’s national governing body.

The NCAA then decided not to adopt USA Swimming’s rules, which made it possible for transgender swimmer Lia Thomas of Penn to compete at the national championships in March, where she won the 500-yard title.


Title IX was written long before the debate about transgender athletes became such a political football, even before transgender tennis player Renee Richards sued to play and certainly before Olympic champion Caitlyn Jenner transitioned.

The law’s landmark clause — “No person shall, on the basis of sex” — is subject to different interpretation than it was in 1972. In 2022, the question essentially boils down to whether it includes gender identity. Under President Joe Biden, the Education Department made clear that it does.

A year ago, the agency issued a statement that said “addressing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity” is within its responsibility “to enforce Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination.” Whether something more substantial is on the way was unclear.

In an analysis, The National Law Review said it is “clear that congressional action may be required to provide a firmer foundation for these protections.”

Don’t hold your breath: The single piece of federal legislation that attempts to bring clarity to the issue was sponsored by a Republican and has not gone anywhere in Congress. Democrats have largely supported the Equality Act, which would enshrine many rights for the LGBTQ community but would not impact Title IX.


For more on Title IX’s impact, read AP’s full report: https://apnews.com/hub/title-ix Video timeline: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdgNI6BZpw0

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Three children and three adults were killed in a shooting at a private Christian grade school in Na...
Associated Press

Police: Nashville school shooting suspect was former student

Three children were killed in a shooting at a private Christian grade school in Nashville on Monday, hospital officials said.
12 hours ago
(Photo from KIRO 7)...
Associated Press

Police: passenger pulled jet’s emergency slide before LAX to SEA flight

A passenger on a Delta Air Lines flight out of Los Angeles International Airport was detained for triggering the plane’s emergency slide prior to takeoff, authorities said.
12 hours ago
Law enforcement officials work at the scene along Wooding Road on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, east o...
Associated Press

Why murder defendant was free before killings in Washington

Kirkland Warren was out on bail pending a long-delayed murder trial in Arkansas. But when he was arrested in Washington, he posted bond and was released.
12 hours ago
Associated Press

Much of drought-plagued West Coast faces salmon fishing ban

The surreal and desperate scramble boosted the survival rate of the hatchery-raised fish, but still it was not enough to reverse the declining stocks in the face of added challenges.
4 days ago
UCLA's Jaime Jaquez Jr. (24) shoots while defended by Gonzaga's Rasir Bolton (45) in the first half...
Associated Press

Gonzaga beats UCLA 79-76 in Sweet 16 on Strawther’s shot

Julian Strawther hit a 3-pointer with 6 seconds left to answer a 3-pointer by UCLA's Amari Bailey, lifting Gonzaga to a wild 79-76 NCAA Tournament win over UCLA Thursday night in the Sweet 16.
4 days ago
Associated Press

Officials: Safety device, human error derailed Wash. train

A safety device failed, knocking a train off the tracks last week, spilling diesel after leaving an oil refinery in Anacortes.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.
SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
EXPLAINER: Title IX update faces polarized challenges