Alanna Smith’s dedication to her sport is profound. Just listening to the elite high school track star explain her training schedule is exhausting. Yet no matter how hard she trains, if she has to compete against biological males, she stands no chance of winning.
“There is simply a biological advantage that males have over females,” explained the daughter of baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Lee Smith.
“Here is a perfect example,” Smith told me. “I have a twin brother who is an athlete but does not run competitively for his sports. We raced against each other recently, and he beat me. Not because he trained harder, but because there are biological and physical advantages boys have over girls in some sports.”
Smith, who set high school and county records as a short-distance track runner the moment she stepped on the field as a freshman at Danbury High School in Connecticut, says when she turns up to compete against male runners who identify and compete as females, she knows the cards are stacked against her.
And it has nothing to do with not being prepared.
“It is frustrating. I spend all of that time training to compete against other girls, and I find myself losing to biological males,” she said.
Since 2017, two males who identify as female have taken 15 women’s state championship titles in Connecticut. Smith’s frustration led her last February to join with two other elite Connecticut runners, Selina Soule and Chelsea Mitchell, to file a federal discrimination complaint against Connecticut’s policy allowing transgender competition against females. The girls explained that the suit alleges the policy unfairly marginalized them and violated Title IX, the federal law designed to ensure equal opportunities for females in education and school-based athletics.
On Inauguration Day, President Joe Biden issued an executive order saying a court case about transgender rights applies to Title IX, a federal education law that prevents discrimination based on sex. Elite female athletes such as Smith, Mitchell, and Soule say Biden’s pro-transgender order underscores their concerns.
Mitchell said she was ranked as the fastest girl in the 55-meter dash in Connecticut high school track in 2019. “Then I went to a high school competition, competing with two biological males who identify as girls,” she said. “I really put my all into it, (but) I ultimately came in third, behind the both of them.”
Soule said she missed an opportunity to qualify for the New England state championship in 2019 by one spot: “Both spots above me were taken by biological males.”
Soule said that two distinct positions can be held about this that don’t need to conflict with each other.
“This is not about not being supportive of the transgender community,” she asserted. “Not at all. This is about fairness to girls and women. you can effectively hold both points of view.”
All three athletes stressed that their objective is even-handedness in women’s sports. “Title IX was created for a reason, and that was to give elite female athletes opportunities to be competitive and successful; the very objective was to have fairness in women’s sports,” said Soule.
Title IX was passed in 1972. In its first 10 years, the number of female athletes had blossomed to over 74,000. By 2020, that number had grown to over 220,000, according to data compiled by the NCAA.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was one of those elite high school athletes in Connecticut in the mid-1990s who was able to shine because of Title IX as an accomplished swimmer for Greenwich High School, and she earned all-state honors in the backstroke. Psaki went on to swim for two years at William and Mary, an NCAA Division I school that currently gives out approximately 200 athletic scholarships a year, including women’s swimming.
A 2020 study by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed among female and male competitive swimmers, males were increasingly faster than females beginning at the age of 10 years and continuing until the age of 17. In other words, had Psaki—who was also the captain of the high school swim team—had to compete against male swimmers who identified as female, her results may have fallen, despite her devotion to competing in her sport.
When asked about Biden’s executive order and what the White House message is to the girls being forced to compete in sports against biological males, in particular in high school sports that lead to scholarship opportunities, Psaki said: “The president’s belief is that trans rights are human rights, and that’s why he signed that executive order. In terms of the determinations by universities and colleges, I would certainly defer to them.”
In short, she did not answer the question, despite the president making it a priority to place female athletes and male athletes identifying as females in direct competition. Since Title IX, female athletes have been given the opportunity to compete in sports, giving them the experiences that athletics give to the development of the young mind and body, such as organization and dedication, and learning how to manage both the lows of sitting on the bench or losing and the highs of winning or excelling.
It also gives them the opportunity for scholarships, just like the boys.
Soule said that competing in sports is as important for young women as it is for young men and teaches important, lifelong lessons.
“It is one thing to show up at a meet expecting to compete against another girl you know is a worthy rival,” she said. “It is another to show up and know you will lose before you even start because of the biological advantages you can do nothing about.”
Christiana Holcomb, who is representing the three girls for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal foundation, said: “It is because of the advantages of those biological differences that these girls are losing their ability to compete fairly. That is what this is all about.”
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