Transgender People in Athletics: An Open Letter to Judge Robert Chatigny

Subject: Transgender People in Athletics: An Open Letter to Judge Robert Chatigny
From: I. Ojutomori
Date: 8 Mar 2021

8 March 2021

The Honorable Senior Judge Robert N. Chatigny
Abraham Ribicoff Federal Building
United States Courthouse
450 Main Street - Room 228
Hartford, Connecticut 06103

Dear Judge Chatigny,

I should begin by saying that I’m writing as a young woman who is currently in high school. I’ve been active in sports occasionally and for many of my female peers, athletics are very important. I think I speak pretty accurately for them when I say that my time playing sports has instilled in me a lot of important habits for a healthier life, as well as taught me about the fundamentals of strategy and team building.

In recent years, efforts have picked up to exclude young women from the same sports that are so pivotal in preparing them for success. In June of 2019, a complaint was filed by the Alliance for Defending Freedom on behalf of several families which alleged that the Connecticut Intercollegiate Athletics Conference had committed acts of discrimination by allowing trans high school athletes to compete against cisgender (not trans) athletes on the girl’s track team at Glastonbury High School. In the original complaint, the plaintiffs asked that transgender girls be disqualified from all women’s athletics teams under CIAC in order to remedy the alleged wrongdoing (1). I write to you today to ask that you rule against this complaint. While the plaintiffs, among them young women athletes who attended Glastonbury, likely feel as though they are justified in their case, a brief but critical review of the evidence and scientific literature about transgender women suggests that they are not.

The complaint repeatedly states that the transgender female athletes have all of the physiological strengths that come from being assigned male at birth, and refers to the athletes as biologically male, which is a term echoed frequently by those who say that sex and gender are simply a matter of “common sense”. Luckily, the institution of science exists to prevail in the many areas where our common sense can fail us, and the current state of scientific literature on trans people, though not nearly complete, shows that when a person transitions medically to a different gender, they do not retain all the physical advantages or disadvantages of their assigned sex at birth. This is seen in the increased muscular strength and testosterone levels of transgender men, as well as the conversely reduced strength, testosterone levels, and aerobic capacity of trans women (2,3). The hundred or so transgender women estimated to have competed in collegiate athletics in 2019 did not outcompete all of their cis female competitors, because they didn't retain all the potential advantages that they may have had as men (4).

Additionally, it may be the suspicion of the plaintiffs in this case that a trans woman, or girl, is simply a confused man, or boy, who shouldn't be allowed to compete with other female athletes in sports. This idea should first be examined on a human level. Imagine living your life and being forced to deal with individuals who tell you that your entire sense of self is wrong— that you're just confused and the sense of identity you’ve worked to create matters much less than what someone else claims you are. I'd imagine that feels bad. Even in the United States, which espouses civil liberties more than many other countries, transitioning to become a woman is a difficult ordeal. Trans women are often cut off from families and friends who won't accept them, which makes them more likely to face homelessness (5). Furthermore, trans women face higher rates of sexual harassment/assault than both men and cis women (6,7). Finally, a 50-year long study found that the percentage of transgender women who eventually regret their decision to transition is extremely low (8). Transgender women are people who stick to their convictions of who they are— they aren't confused, but resilient in the face of serious adversity.

Although the plaintiffs repeatedly cite the Title IX amendments of 1972 in support of their case, an evaluation of the bill shows that Title IX does not fundamentally promote the exclusion of trans women. Section (a) of Title IX states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,” with certain exceptions such as in parts of the military. Title IX goes out of its way to state that neither men nor women should be discriminated against or receive preferential treatment due to their sex (9). On the other hand, the plaintiffs explicitly propose that only trans women may be barred from athletics due to their sex being male— they do not add the same qualifier for trans men (1). By their proposition, if a person's assigned sex at birth is female, they can compete on the women's team as a cis woman, or on the men's team as a trans man. Yet if a person's assigned sex at birth is male, they are permitted only to compete on the men's team. This is sex-based discrimination— a lopsided double standard created on the basis of sex. The proposal made by the plaintiffs in this lawsuit violates the fundamental purpose of the Title IX Amendments of 1972.

I ask you, humbly, to consider the points I have made and rule against this lawsuit. We cannot allow ourselves to forget why we as Americans, and as a society, love sports— it far exceeds concerns about a subjective biological advantage or disadvantage, rather, sports are about uniting people beneath a common team and pushing the limits of human physical ability. Athletics do not exist to diminish competition, shame successful players, or establish detrimental methods of exclusion—when transgender athletes excel, they should be celebrated for their work, and additional opportunities for scholarships, qualifications, and awards should be created to provide opportunities for more players. Transgender women and girls deserve the right to participate in women's athletics.

I sincerely thank you for your consideration.