Trump Pledges to Ban Trans Women From Women’s Sport, Justifies by Citing Records Not Actually Broken
00:16 GMT 02.02.2022 (Updated: 13:28 GMT 06.08.2022)
© REUTERS / Brendan McDermidFILE PHOTO: A person holds up a flag during rally to protest the Trump administration's reported transgender proposal to narrow the definition of gender to male or female at birth, at City Hall in New York City, U.S., October 24, 2018.
Under Donald Trump’s four-year presidency, the Departments of Education, Justice and Health and Human Services were accused of attempting to “erase” trans people by defining people in terms of sex assigned at birth instead of by gender identity or legal gender.
Trump’s 2024 presidential election campaign saw a “soft launch” last month at a rally in Florence, Arizona, his first public rally in more than six months. He hasn’t formally declared his candidacy, but speaks as though he intends to run, and his fundraising committee “Save America” has amassed more than $100 million, the Federal Elections Committee said on Monday.
At another rally in Conroe, Texas, on Saturday, Trump laid out his criticisms of the Biden administration in the year since Trump left office, touted the accomplishments of his first four-year administration, and named some of the changes he would make if he returned to power in 2024.
Among the measures Trump said he would implement included a ban on trans girls and women from competing on sports teams of their gender, characterizing them as “men.”
“We will ban men from participating in women’s sports,” Trump said. “So ridiculous.”
He went on to attack trans athletes, including Lia Thomas, a swimmer from the University of Pennsylvania who has become a favorite target of conservatives ever since she set two new time records in the 200-meter and 500-meter freestyle races in December.
Trump incorrectly said that Thomas beat the record by 38 seconds; while she won the 1,650-yard freestyle race by 38 seconds, the trans athlete didn’t set a record with that time. Fox News and other conservative outlets have hounded the story for weeks, characterizing Thomas’ win as evidence that trans women competing with cis women is inherently unfair.
Trump also claimed a trans woman easily broke a 20-year weightlifting record, but no such incident has ever occurred. It’s possible he was referring to New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, who made history last summer as the first trans woman athlete at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, but Hubbard failed to even qualify to compete for a medal at the games, much less set any kind of record. Like Thomas, Hubbard was for weeks attacked in the right-wing media as having an unfair advantage.
When US President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, he issued dozens of executive orders reversing Trump-era policies, including reinstating several civil rights for transgender Americans, such as being able to serve in the military, and eliminating several policies that discriminated against trans people, including by the departments of Education, Justice, and Health and Human Services. Those included defining people by their gender assignment at birth instead of gender identity - a practice that resulted in trans women being placed in men’s prisons or being barred from women’s crisis centers and homeless shelters.
He also ordered them to adopt the US Supreme Court’s ruling from the previous summer, ignored by the Trump administration, that sex-based language in existing civil rights legislation includes LGBTQ people, including Title IX, which guarantees women equal access to educational facilities and programs, such as school sports teams.
Fight Over Inclusion
Inclusion of trans athletes has become a major target of conservative lawmakers and ideologues in recent years, where they can argue that because they were assigned male at birth and their bodies once produced testosterone, transfeminine athletes are inherently physically superior to cisgender women, who were assigned female at birth.
Critics have noted that such claims are based on sweeping generalizations, pointing to athletes like South African two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner Caster Semeyna, who was assigned female at birth but classified by World Athletics rules as insufficiently female to compete as a woman because she has a naturally high level of testosterone. Others have blasted the idea of sex-based standards, saying the idea of sexual dimorphism is false and based in age-old patriarchal ideas of female inferiority.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has tracked 17 bills introduced into state legislatures since the beginning of the year that would ban trans girls from girls’ sports teams, with South Dakota on Tuesday passing its bill, which was championed by Governor Kristy Noem. However, several states have already passed such bans, including Texas. Noem used an executive order last year to implement a trimmed-down version of the bill after the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) suggested that if the ban applied to college athletes, it could harm the state’s chances of hosting a championship game in the future.
Last month, the NCAA adopted a sport-by-sport approach to the issue, following an example set by the International Olympic Committee that allows the national or international governing body of each sport to determine what qualifies as fair while maintaining safety and inclusivity.
Trans athletes have found widespread support amid the right-wing attacks, including by their teammates and by famous female athletes. Thomas’ teammates issued a statement on Tuesday giving her their “full support” in response to an anonymous team member’s comments that aired on Fox News last month. The anonymous colleague accused Thomas of colluding beforehand with a trans male athlete, who was assigned female at birth and who competed against Thomas, to have Thomas lose to him and upend the claim that being assigned male at birth makes one physically superior to someone assigned female at birth.
Megan Rapinoe, who has led the US national soccer team to multiple FIFA Women’s World Cup victories and a Gold Medal in the 2012 Tokyo Olympics, penned an op-ed in the Washington Post last March in which she urged that “all women must stand up and demand that exclusion is not done in our name.”
Public opinion on the issue is hard to define: while one poll from March 2021 by Hart Research Associates and the Human Rights Campaign found that 73% of those polled believed trans kids should play on the team they feel most comfortable, another poll in May 2021 by Gallup found that 62% of Americans believed trans athletes should only be allowed to compete on teams with athletes of their sex assigned at birth.