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Chalk one up for feminism, conservative style

The rising political influence of transgender activists has led to political and legal brawls over youth sports, restroom usage and military service, among other public accommodations.

The dispute has been over what defines male and female.

Last week, we learned that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has decided that biology, not personal choice, is the determining factor in high school sports.

The department issued a ruling to settle legal wrangling driven by a pair of transgender girls, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, who in recent years have dominated the girls’ state championship track meets. According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative Christian legal group that represented three biological female athletes fighting the policy that allowed Miller and Yearwood to compete, the boys had won 15 state indoor and outdoor track titles since 2017 — when the year before those championships had been split among nine different girls.

Critics maintained that it was unfair to allow biological boys to compete against biological girls. 

In response, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which oversees high school sports, countered that it adopted its policy for transgender athletes to comply with Obama administration rules and federal court rulings. In a statement, the organization maintained “Connecticut law is clear and students who identify as female are to be recognized as female for all purposes — including high school sports.”

The Education Department didn’t buy it, saying the inclusion of transgender girls infringed on the civl rights of biological girls and violated Title IX, the 1972 federal law that prohibits discrimination in educational programs based on sex. 

In its ruling the agency said Connecticut’s policy ultimately “denied female student-athletes athletic benefits and opportunities, including advancing to the finals in events, higher level competitions, awards, medals, recognition, and the possibility of greater visibility to colleges and other benefits.”

Feminists and liberals generally have historically applauded the department’s aggressive action on Title IX to protect women from sexual discrimination. That was done by granting broader access to and greater funding for educational programs, especially scholastic sports. “Before Title IX, one in 27 girls played sports. Today that number is two in five,” the Women’s Sports Foundation noted in 2016. “Since 1972, thanks to increased funding and institutional opportunities, there has been a 545% increase in the percentage of women playing college sports and a 990% increase in the percentage of women playing high school sport.”

The Education Department has threatened to strip Connecticut of some federal funding if it fails to reverse the policy. 

A spokesperson for a transgender rights group said the decision “represents another attack from the Trump administration on transgender students.” And the issue will continue to be litigated in the courts.

Feminists ought to side with the Trump administration on this issue. As Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for the Aliance Defending Freedom put it, “Girls shouldn’t be reduced to spectators in their own sports. … Allowing males to compete in the female category isn’t fair, destroys girls’ athletic opportunities, and clearly violates federal law. … That’s the reason we have girls’ sports in the first place.”

PHOTO: Jessica Hill for The New York Times

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