Tuesday, July 23, 2024
Sport & Fitness

Hero athletes unite for trans youth in sports

Megan Rapinoe, Billie Jean King, and Candace Parker join nearly 200 athletes supporting trans youth participation in sports.

Sports icon Billie Jean King, U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team Co-Captain and World Cup Champion Megan Rapinoe, and WNBA trail-blazer and legend Candace Parker have joined nearly 200 fellow athletes in women’s sports to support providing girls and women who are transgender the equal opportunity to participate in sports.

The athletes joined Athlete Ally and the Women’s Sports Foundation as signatories to a friend-of-the-court brief Lambda Legal filed today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, urging the court to affirm a lower court ruling enjoining an Idaho law that effectively banned transgender girls from participating sports in Idaho schools. Athlete Ally is a nonprofit organization that advocates for LGBTQ inclusion in sports. The Women’s Sports Foundation is a nonprofit organization focused on enabling girls and women to reach their potential in sport and life.

“There is no place in any sport for discrimination of any kind,” Billie Jean King said. “I’m proud to support all transgender athletes who simply want the access and opportunity to compete in the sport they love.  The global athletic community grows stronger when we welcome and champion all athletes – including LGBTQI+ athletes.”

The Idaho legislature passed the anti-transgender H.B. 500 in March, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The so-called “Fairness in Women’s Sports” law effectively bans girls and women who are transgender, and some who are intersex, from participating in sports, while inviting invasions of privacy against all girls and women in sports. In August, the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho granted an injunction sought by the ACLU and the ACLU of Idaho on behalf of two students preventing implementation of the ban while the case winded its way through the courts. The State of Idaho has appealed that ruling to the Ninth Circuit.

“The dozens of athletes joining this brief – many internationally recognized stars, while others still in college and high school – share one thing in common: a deep understanding and appreciation of the life-long benefits that come from participation in sports. They acknowledge they would not have accessed these benefits without the guarantee of equal opportunity to participate in sports in primary, secondary, and university schools,” Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Carl Charles said. “They recognize the value of inclusive and welcoming sports environments and firmly believe laws like H.B. 500 that single out groups of women and girls from participation in sports harm the entire athletic community.”

The amicus brief underscores the multitude of benefits all young people experience by participating in sports, not only in terms of physical fitness, but also, and perhaps more importantly, in the learned values of teamwork and sportsmanship. Denying girls and women who are transgender the ability to participate flies in the face of everything that sports stand for in this country. Throughout the brief, the athletes who signed the brief discuss the real and enduring benefits of participating as their true and authentic selves in the sports they love, as well as how such participation benefitted them on the field, in the classroom, and later, in life.

“The fight for equality is the very cornerstone of the Women’s Sports Foundation; regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or ability, all girls and women deserve the opportunity to play, compete and lead,” said Deborah Antoine, WSF CEO. “We are proud to join the partner organizations and the many advocate athletes signing this important brief. We firmly believe that humanity wins when everyone, including transgender athletes, are represented and included.”

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of LGBTQ people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and policy work. 

Athlete Ally believes sport will change the world when it welcomes and empowers all people. As a leading national nonprofit working at the intersection of sport and LGBTQI+ equality, Athlete Ally works to end the structural and systemic oppression that isolates, excludes and endangers LGBTQI+ people in sport.

The Women’s Sports Foundation exists to enable girls and women to reach their potential in sport and life. We are an ally, an advocate and a catalyst. Founded by Billie Jean King in 1974, WSF strengthens and expand participation and leadership opportunities through research, advocacy, community programming and a wide variety of collaborative partnerships.

Athlete quotes in the brief:

Meike Babel is a former professional tennis player from Germany who played on the Women’s Tennis Association Tour for ten years. She was Women’s Tennis Assistant Coach at Tulane University and at Vanderbilt University.

“Trans athletes deserve to play and compete just like any other athlete. We all deserve to experience all the benefits of sport. In my mind, any athlete that fights to be themselves on and off the field, court or track are role models with inner strength and resiliency. As athletes and as human beings, we learn from each other when we are around people who embrace who they are.”

Meghan Duggan is a retired American ice hockey forward who had a 14 year career with Team USA. She competed in 3 Olympic Games, and captained the team in 2 of those games. She won two silver medals in 2010 and 2014; and captained the team to the gold medal in 2018. She also represented the United States at eight Women’s World Championships, capturing seven gold medals and one silver medal. Meghan is also a motivational speaker, a mentor, an advocate, a wife, and a new mom!

“Trans athletes deserve those same rights and equal opportunities in sports. I now mentor young athletes, inspiring them to find their voices through hockey. Every child, regardless of gender identity, should have the chance to access the lifelong skills that sports teach like confidence, perseverance and leadership.”

Aimee Mullins is an actor, model, and public speaker.  A former track and field athlete who set three world records in the 100-meter, 200-meter and long jump events and competed at the1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. She was President of the Women’s Sports Foundation from 2007-2009, and Chef de Mission of Team USA for the 2012 Games.

“As a bilateral below-knee amputee, I spent roughly the first two decades of my life competing against ‘normal’ athletes. Indeed, I had never met another amputee athlete until I was 18 years old. Never in my life have I felt defined by the term ‘disabled,’ regardless of what labels others may try to attach to me.

Read the full brief here.

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