The top two runners in the girls 55-meter dash at Connecticut’s high school track championships have something in common. Winner Terry Miller and second-place finished Andraya Yearwood are both transgender runners.
Winning is nothing new for them, the Washington Times reported. They took the top two places in the girls 100-meter Connecticut high school championships last year. Miller also won the girls 300-meter race this year.
Competitor Selina Soule said that while the two students have the right to express who they are, rules such as the one in Connecticut that puts no restrictions on transgender athletes are not fair to everyone else.
“We all know the outcome of the race before it even starts; it’s demoralizing,” she said.
“I fully support and am happy for these athletes for being true to themselves. They should have the right to express themselves in school, but athletics have always had extra rules to keep the competition fair,” she said.
“I think it’s unfair to the girls who work really hard to do well,” she said last year when the matter was debated, according to the Hartford Courant. “These girls, they’re just coming in and beating everyone.”
The Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference insists that the goal is to avoid discrimination. The issue is growing in importance now that more and more student identify as transgender, as The Western Journal has reported.
“This is about someone’s right to compete,” executive director Glenn Lungarini said.
“I don’t think this is that different from other classes of people, who, in the not too distant past, were not allowed to compete. I think it’s going to take education and understanding to get to that point on this issue,” he said.
However, Jon Forrest, whose daughter attends Glastonbury high school, said Connecticut needs to either develop a separate category for transgender athletes or adopt a hormone standard to decide who runs as a boy and who runs as a girl.
“The facts show Glastonbury would be the state champion based on cisgender girls competing against cisgender girls,” he said, using the word for girls who identify with their birth gender. “You don’t realize it until you see it in person, the disparity in the ability to perform.”
One official said the issue only arises when transgender girls win events.
“The elephant in the room is when winning and losing comes into play,” CIAC executive director Karissa Niehoff said. “Folks will say it’s not about winning and losing. But when a situation rises to the forefront, it’s generally when there’s a situation involving winning and losing and it doesn’t feel good.”
Erin Buzuvis, director of the Center of Gender and Sexuality Studies at Western New England College, said the issue is simple.
“A transgender girl is a girl and ought to be treated like a girl,” Buzuvis said. “If you start to put limitations or exclusions on their participation, not only do you run the risk of violating state anti-discrimination law, but also you are disregarding and disrespecting a population of students based on a core aspect of their identity, which is something that schools should not be in the practice of doing.”
Buzuvis said claims that the current setup lacks fairness are uninformed.
“I understand that it appears to many people as an inequitable playing field, but they don’t have any context or knowledge about how that athlete’s life would be if she weren’t transgender. And it would be possible she’d be beating their daughters if she was cisgender,” he said.