A lawmaker in Idaho is championing the effort to ban transgender athletes from competing in sports against opponents who don't share their biological sex.
Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R) plans to introduce legislation that would prevent biological males from competing with females in high school sports, and vice versa.
“Boys and men will not be able to take the place of girls and women in sports because it’s not fair,” Ehardt told East Idaho News.
“We cannot physically compete against boys and men. The inherent biological, scientific advantages that boys and men have over girls and women, even if they were to take hormones, even if they were to spend a couple of years on estrogen, that’s not going to replace the inherent biological advantages that boys and men have.”
The legislator said the bill is carefully worded so as not to single out biological males and focuses on DNA and chromosomes.
“Those biological boys, those men, can still compete (in sports), it will just have to be with those who look like them, that have the same large heart and lungs,” she explained.
The legislator maintained that her bill doesn’t target the LGBT community and merely aims to provide a level playing field for both male and female athletes.
The eligibility of transgender athletes has proved to be a thorny and politically-charged issue in recent years. The debate mainly revolves around the participation of transgender women (biological males who identify as women) in sports.
It is common knowledge, proven by scientific research that men are typically taller, heavier, and bigger, and also have a bigger skeletal muscle mass and lung volume than women, which could give them an unfair advantage against female rivals.
What are the international rules about transgender athletes?
International authorities such as the IAAF and the IOC allow female-to-male transitioning athletes to take part in elite competitions without undergoing gender reassignment surgery.
Both bodies required those athletes to keep the level of the muscle-building hormone testosterone below 10 nanomoles per litre of blood, just above the low end of typical male values, meaning that some transgender male athletes require hormonal treatment to qualify for competitions.
The track-and-field governing body halved that threshold this fall over concerns that the previously-allowed levels might not have been enough for biological males to suppress physical advantages over women. Discussions over new rules are still ongoing at the International Olympic Committee ahead of this year’s Tokyo Olympics.
What are the rules in the US?
This issue has also affected high-school sports, where calls for transgender inclusion overlapped with complaints from female athletes that it violates the federal protections of their rights.
There is no universal federal policy on transgender athletes in the US, where 17 states allow students to compete in the sex they identify with, rather than one they were assigned with at birth.
Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Washington, and West Virginia all have bills introduced recently that would restrict the participation of transgender students in exclusively female sport events.
The legislative push comes months after a major controversy in Connecticut, the state with a trans-inclusive policy on sports, where two biologically-male transgender sprinters have won a total of 15 women’s State Championship titles.
In June 2019, three female track athletes filed federal complaints against the state’s policy saying it discriminates against biological women.
Terry Miller, one of the two transgender athletes named in the complaint, said in response: “I have faced discrimination in every aspect of my life and I no longer want to remain silent.”
“I am a girl and I am a runner. I participate in athletics just like my peers to excel, find community and meaning in my life. It is both unfair and painful that my victories have to be attacked and my hard work ignored.”