May 9, 2023
With help from Michael Stratford
MORE THAN 100K COMMENTS — The comment period for the Biden administration’s policy on transgender students’ sports eligibility is almost up, and so far, the reviews are mixed.
— As of Sunday night, the proposal has drawn more than 100,000 comments in the Federal Register ahead of the May 15 deadline. The Biden Education Department has billed its rule as a compromise, since it allows transgender girls to play on girls sports teams, but with some limitations. The new proposal would make categorical transgender sports bans illegal, but acknowledges competition levels, fairness and a school’s interest in preventing injuries, especially in contact sports.
— Advocates for transgender students say the rule does not go far enough to promote full inclusion of trans women and girls, while advocates on the other side say the rule still undermines fairness in women’s sports. Schools are also seeking more clarity in the rule since there are several issues they have to navigate when it comes to implementation.
— “The Biden administration policy, while well intentioned, opens up an avenue for discrimination against trans athletes,” said Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr, who joined a group of more than a dozen trans and nonbinary lawmakers in sending a letter to the president criticizing his proposed sports rule. The lawmakers wrote that “there is no such thing as an acceptable ‘compromise’ that limits transgender Americans access to equal rights.”
— “It’s important to remember that those advocating for sports bans are the folks who are looking for a foot in the door for restrictions on trans people in all aspects of our life,” she said. “We need policies that begin with the understanding that trans people belong in sports matching their gender identity.”
— A big question that also remains is how school boards or school districts will navigate a potential new rule on sports, especially when several states have imposed restrictions on transgender athletes. During the comment period, school districts are likely to ask the department for more clarity on which law they are to follow, according to National School Boards Association Chief Legal Officer Francisco Negron.