Joe Biden gives a speech from a podium in front of American flags, seen with a lens flare.

Biden Promised Trans Kids He Had Their Backs, Then Stabbed Them In It

It’s hard to play sports with a knife between your shoulder blades.

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On the first day Joe Biden took office, he signed an executive order that compelled schools to allow trans athletes to participate on school sports teams corresponding to their gender identity. Now he appears to have caved to conservative efforts to ban trans athletes from competing.

The administration has come out with a proposal that would walk back Title IX protections afforded to trans athletes, allowing schools to bar some trans athletes from competing. While the proposal would disallow schools to enact a “blanket ban” on trans athletes, it would allow for schools to bar certain trans athletes from playing on sports teams that correspond to their gender at the competitive level.

This is, for lack of a better term, a big L for the Biden administration and its relationship to the trans community. Biden has repeatedly promised trans people, and especially trans youth, that he “has [their] back,” but it seems that this is no longer the case.

It should be noted that while trans issues are becoming the focus of a larger debate in American sports and politics, the actual number of trans athletes remains minuscule. Reports show that only about 1.4 percent of people between the ages of 13 to 17 identify as transgender, along with 1.3 percent of people between 18 and 24. While this is nearly triple the amount of trans adults in America, it still constitutes only about 1 in every 130 children. The number of trans athletes is even less.

Senator Alexandra Ocasio Cortez was quick to lambast the Biden administration’s proposal on Twitter, calling it “indefensible and embarrassing”. As the proposal is just that, a proposal, and not a law, she has called upon the Biden administration to “walk it back.” Slate writer Mark Joseph Stern called the proposal “extremely disappointing,” saying it constituted a “total reversal” of Biden’s earlier promise to protect the rights of trans people. In the comments, some users described the proposal as “political pandering” while others crawled out of their right-wing internet dumpsters to tout the decision as a small victory for “women’s rights.” We don’t talk about those people.

After reading the entire proposal, one user tweeted that while at best it could be seen as an attempt to “control the damage” being done to trans athletes across multiple states, it also references a decision made by the International Federation of Aquatics (FINA) that effectively bans trans women who have undergone any effects of male puberty from competing on women’s teams.

The regulation was made as a form of compromise between the two contrasting ideologies regarding trans participation in sports. Like in most compromises, neither party is walking away happy. Those in support of trans liberation believe that the Title IX rights of trans athletes are being denied, while those against it argue that the IX rights of “women” are in jeopardy. Like in most debates surrounding trans people, transmisogyny is once again at play.

What is transmisogyny? It is the hatred of trans women. Barring debates around trans-inclusive healthcare, most anti-trans policies stem from the existence of trans women. In fact, a large portion of the debate can be summed up with the answer to this simple question: Are trans women actually women? If the answer is “yes,” (correct) trans people are afforded their Title IX privileges, if the answer is deemed to be “no,” they are denied them.

This is not to say trans men and non-binary people are able to escape transphobia—far from it. In fact, transmisogyny hurts trans people as whole, even though trans-masculine people tend to be absent from the discussion around trans inclusivity. Conservative lawmakers do not see trans-masculine people to be a “threat” in the same way that they see trans women. They are not to be considered a danger. In fact, they are not to be considered at all. Trans men are effectively invisible in most debates regarding trans rights, yet to be ignored is just as dangerous as to be targeted.

The transmisogynist ideology with regard to sports is perhaps at its most virulent in conversations surrounding the champion transgender swimmer Lia Thomas. Ms. Thomas was the first transgender woman to win the N.C.A.A. Division 1 championship in the 500-yard women’s freestyle. Naturally, this drew ire from conservative-leaning politicians, athletics associations, and Ms. Thomas’ own competitors. Riley Gaines, who competed against Ms. Thomas, says that Thomas’ inclusion in sports denigrates the purpose of Title IX protections. Ms. Gaines, who is also a spokeswoman for a conservative women’s organization, has said that she wants to “protect the female category of sport.” From this statement, it’s no stretch of the mind to infer that her answer to the “Are trans women actually women” question is a resounding “no.”

In fact, Ms. Gaines and others like her believe that Biden’s new proposal doesn’t go far enough in walking back protections afforded to trans athletes, and specifically trans women. Others have said that a “one size fits all solution” is not a sensible approach to the issue. Doriane Lambelet Coleman, a Duke law professor who competed in track and field events in the 1980s has said that individual education institutions weigh “fairness and inclusion really differently,” and that schools could benefit from taking a “bespoke” approach to the issue. I think she’s bespoken enough, and needs to beshush.

There is a longstanding legal precedent in America regarding civil rights that says when a policy denies the rights of one, it denies the rights of all, and must be thrown out. It’s telling that this precedent, established by Brown vs. Board of Education which ended racial segregation in American public schools, was established when a little girl was denied the rights afforded to other children in the education system. America should sympathize with the plight of trans girls in education. But rather than grant the rights that are guaranteed to girls, the nation questions if they are really girls at all.

(featured image: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

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Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.