Congressional Republicans reintroduced the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act last week, but were joined by female athletes, who expressed the need to guard women’s equal opportunities in sports.
Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., introduced the legislation last Wednesday, the same day that athletes were observing Girls and Women in Sports Day. Steube had introduced a similar measure sharing the same title in January 2021.
On his first day in office in January 2021, President Joe Biden issued an executive order that changed the nature of discrimination under Title IX and encouraged students across the country to play on the teams of their chosen gender, rather than their biological sex. In addition, his Department of Education is currently trying to rewrite Title IX rules and not only permanently change athletic qualifications but also allow transgenders in opposite-sex bathrooms, locker rooms, and other private spaces.
Designed to codify protections for women under Title IX, the latest bill introduced by Steube will make it a violation “for a recipient of Federal funds who operates, sponsors, or facilitates athletic programs or activities to permit a person whose sex is male to participate in an athletic program or activity that is designated for women or girls.”
The bill also recognizes sex as “based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth,” rather than their gender identity.
Some legislators held a roundtable with female athletes, who talked about the problems of allowing males to compete in women’s sports. Among the lawmakers was House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who read a statement from Steube (who is recovering from injuries sustained in an accident) that said,
“It’s a sad day in America when we have to introduce a bill saying that men will play on men’s teams and women will play on women’s teams.”
Congresswoman Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., who co-sponsored the bill and introduced it in Steube’s stead, spoke before Congress, saying, “Today, we take a stand, with compassion for all, in defense of women’s sports to stop this dangerous precedent.”
She noted that the bill also ensures that Title IX, first created in 1973 to protect women and ensure that they had equal opportunity to play sports, can’t be manipulated to benefit biological males or to advance a political ideology. She explained,
“This bill isn’t just anti-woke. It is actually pro-science. This bill will protect opportunities for women and girls to compete fairly on the athletic field and in life without interference from woke agencies or politicians who are making up definitions of sex and gender as they go, all to fit toxic political agendas and ideologies.”
Former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines and Lee University volleyball player Macy Petty were some of the women present at the event. Gaines competed against transgender swimmer William Thomas (who completed under the female moniker Lia) at the NCAA championships; Gaines tied with Thomas in the 200-meter freestyle. She recently criticized the NCAA for allowing Thomas to compete at all, citing his biological advantages. This week, Gaines released an opinion piece in which she wrote,
“We should not have to add the term ‘biological’ in front of the word women to address differences in performance and our separate categories. Let’s use this National Girls and Women in Sports day to celebrate the achievements and hard work on the basis of sex, not gender identity. Women deserve to be recognized without facing overt discrimination. We deserve equal opportunity. We deserve fair competition. We shouldn’t be denied the right to consent to being exposed to male nudity in the places where we undress.”
Gaines previously spoke about having to share a locker room with Thomas, something the NCAA had not warned female athletes about. “It is so wild that you can turn around and see a 6’4″ biological man pull down his pants down, watching you undress — and no one is willing to stick up for you?” Gaines said at the roundtable.
A complaint filed against the University of Pennsylvania featured testimony from female swimmers on the team who discussed the awkwardness they felt changing in front of Thomas, who has male anatomy and is attracted to women.
The failure to protect women is moral cowardice on the part of legislators, athletic officials, schools, men, and other women. There are, without question, differences between men and women. Unfortunately, we live in a society where people simply want to pretend those differences don’t exist. Furthermore, based on the performance of Thomas and others, it is clear that male athletes who are transgender do not lose their physical advantage just because they start taking female hormones.
Despite the negative impact this has had, legislators and sports associations continue to allow males to steal victories and opportunities from women. If sports are to have rules about cheating, then males should not be allowed to cheat by competing against females in women’s sports.
Stolen athletic glory is one thing, but there’s also the issue of safety. An often overlooked problem in the battle over allowing men who claim to be women to compete in women’s sports is the issue of locker rooms. Having biological men in those places puts women in not just an awkward situation, but a potentially dangerous one.
Under trans-friendly rules, any male, including those who are attracted to women, may change in the women’s locker room if they merely claim to be transgender. They are then free to attempt to gawk at women in various moments of undress, as well as to undress and even shower in front of women. A man who may be much larger and much stronger than a woman is then in a position where he could easily commit various sex crimes.
The MeToo movement has supported women who claimed to have been flashed by a man or who have been victims of peeping toms who spied on them while they were undressing in hotel rooms or other private spaces. Is it any less offensive and traumatic because the man happens to be wearing long hair and makeup while claiming to be just one of the girls?
Female athletes should not be endangered or traumatized by being forced to be seen in a state of undress by a member of the opposite sex just because they want to play sports. No decent human being — certainly no decent society — should ever want to put women and girls in such a fraught situation.
Proverbs 31:8-9 says,
“Open your mouth for the mute,
For the rights of all the unfortunate.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.”
Girls and women who play sports are subject to the decisions of those in positions of authority. Americans and those who represent them must stand up for the rights of women not to have men in their private spaces.
This issue isn’t just about sports. Already, we have had teenaged boys who say they are transgender going into women’s bathrooms and attacking high school girls and men who say they are transgender being transferred to women’s prisons and then sexually assaulting and impregnating female inmates.
If something is not done soon, biological boys and men will eventually be allowed to invade all spaces deemed private to women, including battered women’s shelters and female dorms.
The Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act seems like a good place to start. It is the kind of common-sense law everyone should be able to agree on, but we, unfortunately, don’t live in a common-sense age.
Too many politicians are, as Riley Gaines noted, “blinded by their political ideology” and can’t see how women are being intimidated, traumatized, and erased. At the moment, the U.S. Senate is unlikely to bring this bill to a vote — but they might if enough of them hear from the American people.
As such, everyone must reach out to their legislators and strongly encourage them to vote in favor of this bill. Only then will we ensure that female athletes across the country are protected and treated fairly — now and in the future.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.