Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday challenging Connecticut's policy allowing transgender athletes to compete in girls' sports.
Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday challenging Connecticut’s policy allowing transgender athletes to compete in girls’ sports.
Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday challenging Connecticut’s policy allowing transgender athletes to compete in girls’ sports.

Chelsea Mitchell remembers realizing she was in for a tough race when she lined up to compete in a track-and-field competition last year. As two transgender athletes took their places beside her, the Canton High School senior heard observers chant her name from the stands.

“Then the gun went off, and I lost,” Mitchell said. “No girl should have to settle into her starting blocks knowing that no matter how hard you work, you don’t have a fair shot at victory.”

Mitchell and several others recounted their losses from the steps of the Capitol on Wednesday. The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative religious group with cases across the U.S., filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the students challenging the state’s policy of allowing trans athletes to compete in accordance with their gender identity.

The suit, like the Title IX complaint the group filed last summer, alleges that “inescapable biological facts of the human species [are] not stereotypes, ‘social constructs,’ or relics of past discrimination.” Trans girls have a biological advantage over their cisgender counterparts in girls’ sports, the complaint claims, giving the trans athletes a physiological edge in athletic competitions.

“That biological unfairness doesn’t go away because of what someone believes about gender identity,” said Alanna Smith, a sophomore at Danbury High School and plaintiff in the suit. “All girls deserve to compete on a level playing field.”

Connecticut does not require transgender athletes to undergo hormone therapy to participate in sports, unlike the NCAA or the International Olympic Committee. The girls in the lawsuit claim the policy could rob them of potential scholarships and places in the record books.

“We’ve missed out on medals and opportunities to compete,” said Selina Soule, another plaintiff and a student at Glastonbury High School. “Time is slipping away. Graduation is just around the corner. We won’t be sidelined, and we won’t be silenced.”

Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said the case was not about athletes’ gender identity. “It’s absolutely not about the lifestyle,” she said. “What it is about is fundamental fairness in women’s athletics.”

The ACLU of Connecticut plans to fight the lawsuit to defend the interests of trans student athletes in the state, one of 17 with trans-inclusive athletics policies.

“The language of the complaint, which deliberately misgenders transgender youth and demands that high school athletics be organized by chromosomes, is an assault on the basic dignity and humanity of transgender people and a threat to the privacy and equality of all students,” Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement.

The suit specifically names Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller, two transgender student athletes who are both seniors this year in Connecticut high schools. In a statement, Miller said she has been discriminated against her whole life, and it’s painful for her victories to be attacked.

“So many young trans people face exclusion at school and in athletics and it contributes to the horrible pain and discrimination that my community faces,” she said. “There is a long history of excluding black girls from sports and policing our bodies. I am a runner, and I will keep running and keep fighting for my existence, my community and my rights.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Selina Soule as a student at Danbury High School. She is a student at Glastonbury High School.

Kelan is a Report For America Corps Member who covers the intersection of mental health and criminal justice for CT Mirror. Before joining CT Mirror, Kelan was a staff writer for City Weekly, an alt weekly in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a courts reporter for The Bryan-College Station Eagle, in Texas. He is originally from Philadelphia.

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13 Comments

  1. “The language of the complaint, which deliberately misgenders transgender youth and demands that high school athletics be organized by chromosomes…”

    Last I checked, life itself is organized by chromosomes. I agree with the plaintiffs’ attorneys–this is NOT about lifestyle, it’s about biology. I absolutely couldn’t care less what these athletes–who competed as boys–do in their personal lives but they are still genetic males.

    The NCAA and international organizations have restrictions and limits, including levels of testosterone allowed in so-called transgender women. If this allowed, why aren’t actual female athletes allowed to take steroids? CT doesn’t even require anything other than ‘identifying’ as a different gender. CT is so messed up we now allow declaring ‘non-binary gender’ on driver’s licenses. We’ve traveled through the Looking Glass, Alice.

  2. Way to go girls! These young females are being robbed of the effort and investment made in becoming an athlete. Hey, I have nothing against transgenders. So, I do not believe that should be excluded from high school athletics. However, they should run in a unique class. Hey, they have an “X” on their Drivers License in Connecticut. So, they should have a gender class of “X” for high school athletics. It is the only fair way to resolve this issue.

  3. Why are there boys and girls sports at all? Why not just make it all co-ed? There’s your answer. The trans athletes should have raced on the boys team (and lost as they are not stellar when compared to others of their own sex…) Why can’t they? Because they feel uncomfortable? Wow. This whole thing is just stupid. I don’t see this ending well for LGBT peeps as all they are doing is building resentment.

    1. Part of the issue is the activist wing and “organizations” have lumped “trans” in with LGB peoples. They shouldn’t be. As a gay man, I share no commonality with anyone that suffers from a body dysmorphic disorder. Our issues are not the same or connected. However, the “organizations” lump us together to be able to raise more moolah and notoriety for themselves.

  4. Seems to me CT should follow the lead of both the NCAA and IOC. Often Olympic participation spawns from college sports achievement, which spawns from High School sports achievement. CT’s policy seems to destroy that path because the best biological women miss out on sports scholarship opportunities, yet no such path can exist for those that [identify without corresponding drug therapy]. The ACLU should follow the settled science, as is preached so often.

  5. This lawsuit is long overdue. I am constantly puzzled by people who accept science on issues like climate change and vaccines but then suddenly abandon all science in particular genetics on issues such as this. These are biological males competing against teenage girls. Substituting feelings in the place of facts on this subject is beyond cruel to young female athletes.

  6. Another example of “social justice” progressiveness and gender bias. No one seems to have an issue when it’s a transgender biological female forcing themselves onto a all boys team to compete, yet when the advantage is not in favor of girls or females than it becomes an issue.

    1. The issue there is that females that believe they are males are not likely to make a male sports team because they are not able to physically compete at the same level and would likely be “cut” during try-outs. Those females then just compete on the girls teams– we used to call them “butch” but that isn’t PC nowadays.

  7. The growth of female sports and female participation in sports during the last 50 years has been wonderful. The increased funding of female sports teams in public schools has changed our society in a very positive way. However, allowing biological males to compete against biological females is a regressive factor in this advancement. What is wrong with having a transgender female who was born as a male compete on the male teams?

  8. Why don’t we just make X division of sports for that community. It would seen the fair way to allow all athletes to compete in fair divisions.

  9. In pursuit of “inclusion” and “acceptance” and “non-discrimination”, we’ve gone completely off the rails and into the ditch. It’s just plain nonsense. Whatever gender one identifies with cannot cancel or overcome biology.

    Maybe, while the suit is pending, when the starting gun goes off, the biologically female athletes should make their point by just remaining standing and not compete against the biologically-male-but-identifying-as-female athletes.

    1. I actually mentioned that to a family member of an athlete who has competed against those boys. Their response made sense–if the girls are really worthy of scholarship consideration (theirs isn’t, at least not yet) college coaches see that and also see the insanity of the CIAC rules; actually helping the girls’ position.

      The family member did agree that perhaps at some ‘nothing’ early season meet that act might be worthwhile, except for one thing–they wonder if the girl(s) would be punished by the protect themselves at all cost CIAC. The news of such a situation is no longer necessary as the story is national, if not international

  10. The CIAC as the governing body for CT high school sports allowed this to happen because (one)… the committee had/has several members that actually are in favor of this and (two)… they were bullied by the ACLU and LGTBQ entities that represent a minuscule percentage of the population.
    Now the CIAC is claiming that they HAD to allow this due to CT law, which is no more then an effort to deflect blame onto the democratic legislature. While the girls may not win their suit in the lower court and even the “southern district court of appeals” they will ultimately prevail and I hope they spank the CIAC so hard that no one will allow such an obvious injustice to happen again!

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