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Alliance Alert

Jun 21, 2019

Connecticut’s Unfair Playing Field

The best athletes don’t reach the next level by accident. It takes countless hours—even years—of blood, sweat, tears, late nights, and early mornings to overcome obstacles and earn your way onto the podium. That’s why an equal playing field is so important, and it’s why knowing your competition has played with an unfair advantage can be so crushing.  

That’s the case of Selina Soule and other female track athletes in the state of Connecticut. Selina is a high school athlete who has spent most of her life perfecting her craft. However, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) decided in 2017 to allow boys to compete in her sport—as long as the boys claim a female gender identity. When competing against these boys, girls in Connecticut know that the playing field is unequal.

Let’s take a look.

Selina Soule is a 16-year-old high school student at Glastonbury High School in Connecticut. Like many prep athletes her age, Selina has devoted countless days, nights, and weekends to training, striving to shave mere fractions of a second off her race times. She does so in the hopes of personal satisfaction of victory, an opportunity to participate in state and regional meets, and a chance to earn a college scholarship.

Yet, despite her best efforts, Selina has gone into races over the past two years knowing that she has little chance of winning.

With the 2017 policy change by the CIAC, female athletes know it’s virtually impossible to reach the top of the podium. As Selina has said, “We all know the outcome of the race before it even starts; it’s demoralizing.”

At the Connecticut indoor track championship in late February of this year, Selina missed out on qualifying for the New England regionals by two spots—both of which were taken by female-identifying boys. Not only that, but the two boys claimed the top spots at 6.95 seconds—a girls state indoor track “record”—and 7.01 seconds. The third-place contestant crossed the line at 7.23 seconds.

Selina didn’t get a chance to compete at the New England regionals and make an impression on college scouts—all because of the CIAC’s policy that prioritizes beliefs about gender over biology.

While plenty of girls and parents talk about the unfairness of allowing biological boys to compete in girls’ sports, they’re afraid of the backlash for speaking out in public. After the February championship results, Selina decided it was time to speak out:

It’s very frustrating and heartbreaking when us girls are at the start of the race and we already know that these athletes are going to come out and win no matter how hard you try. They took away the spots of deserving girls, athletes … me being included.

This week, Selina and two other anonymous girls’ track athletes took a major step to correct the situation in Connecticut. As the named complainant on a Title IX complaint that Alliance Defending Freedom filed with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, Selina is asking that the OCR investigate illegal discrimination against the Connecticut athletes. The complaint also notes that CIAC’s policy and its results directly violated the requirements of Title IX, a federal educational regulation designed to protect equal opportunities, including in athletics, for women and girls.

ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb said:

Girls deserve to compete on a level playing field. Forcing female athletes to compete against boys is grossly unfair and destroys their athletic opportunities. Title IX was designed to eliminate discrimination against women in education and athletics, and women fought long and hard to earn the equal athletic opportunities that Title IX provides. Allowing boys to compete in girls’ sports reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women under this law. We shouldn’t force these young women to be spectators in their own sports.

In the complaint, ADF attorneys tell how one male sophomore athlete failed to advance in boys’ indoor track events during the Winter 2018 season and then abruptly began competing in the girls’ events in the Spring 2018 outdoor track season. The student then, the complaint explains, “deprived girls of opportunities to advance and participate in state-level competition” in every statewide elimination track event that the student completed. This athlete now holds more than 10 records within the state of Connecticut that once belonged to 10 different girls.

Unfortunately, Connecticut isn’t the only place where males are dominating women’s sports. Three years ago in Alaska, a biological male caused controversy when he competed in the state high school track and field championship. And another male claimed the top spot at the NCAA women’s track national championship earlier this year—a year after he competed in men’s sports.

Unless administrators and sporting officials do something to keep fair competition for female competitors, one has to wonder how many championships and records will continue to be held by biological women in the near future.

Holcomb said of female athletes:

They put in that effort in hope of the personal satisfaction of victory, an opportunity to participate in state and regional meets, or a chance at a college scholarship. But girls competing against boys know the outcome before the race even starts: They can’t win. Boys will always have physical advantages over girls; that’s the reason we have women’s sports.

Girls deserve to compete on a level playing field. Forcing female athletes to compete against biological males just isn’t fair. It destroys athletic opportunities guaranteed by Title IX and deprives female athletes like Selina a fair shake at victory.

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