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Tipsheet

As Title IX Turns 50, Female Athletes and Advocates Raise Concern About the Future of Women's Sports

Townhall Media/Madeline Leesman

June 23, 2022, marks the 50-year anniversary of Title IX, the federal civil rights law enacted in 1972 that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or education program that receives federal funding.

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The Independent Women’s Forum, along with several other organizations, hosted an "Our Bodies Our Sports" rally Thursday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX and to address the issue of biological male “transgender” athletes competing in women’s sports. As a result, female athletes are being sidelined in their sports by male-bodied athletes.

One example that pushed this issue to the forefront in recent months is “transgender” swimmer Will “Lia” Thomas, a biological male who competed on the women’s swim team at the University of Pennsylvania. Thomas competed on the men’s team for three seasons previously. 

In the pool, Thomas dominated other female competitors and took home a Division I title at the NCAA championships in March. In the weeks leading up to it, several members of the UPenn women’s swim team came forward anonymously to speak out over the unfairness of competing against a male athlete and the uncomfortable environment Thomas created in the locker room, which Townhall covered.

At today’s rally, I spoke with several female athletes who have been personally impacted by transgender athletes infiltrating women’s sports, as well as the mother of an Ivy League swimmer who competed against Thomas this past season. The athletes I spoke to shared with me how women’s sports are at risk of disappearing if male-bodied athletes are confined to allowed to compete in women’s sports.

World champion track athlete Cynthia Monteleone shared with Townhall how she first competed against a biological male athlete at a race in Spain in 2018. Monteleone beat her transgender competitor, but, a year later, the transgender athlete beat Monteleone's female friend. Monteleone was advised to stay silent when she tried to speak up regarding the unfairness of the situation. To top it off, Monteleone's teenage daughter found herself competing against a biological male in high school track at her school in Maui, Hawaii. Monteleone's daughter, Margaret, placed second in the race.

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"I have firsthand knowledge of what it feels like to line up next to a male-bodied athlete," Monteleone told Townhall. "I'm also a coach to young athletes and Olympians. And for my young athletes, it's really important that when I teach them lessons like 'hard work pays off' that that rings true...that lesson falls apart when they have to line up next to someone who, quite literally, can be a mediocre athlete and still win."

Monteleone added that she is not on her way to Finland to compete in the 2022 World Masters Athletics Championships taking place this month. Rather, she is boycotting the event for allowing transgender athletes to compete against women. She told me she's spoken with Republican lawmakers about the issue of transgender athletes competing in women's sports.

"I had a really great meeting with lawmakers last year. We had a powerhouse meeting with Joni Ernst and Marsha Blackburn and Cyndie Hyde-Smith and at the close of the meeting Sen. Hyde Smith said 'well, shame on us if this happens on our watch' and I just love that passion, I love that energy, and I'd like to see that big energy continue," she said.

I spoke to several college athletes who'd also experienced lining up against a male-bodied athlete in sporting events.

Madison Kenyon, a student-athlete at Idaho State University, told Townhall that she raced against a biological male athlete who identifies as a female five times. She told me how, as a freshman, she went into her first race against this individual with an "open mind" because the athlete had taken testosterone suppression. 

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"They didn't only beat me, but they beat hundreds of other athletes," Kenyon explained. "It really hit me on the podium when my team and I were watching the awards and this athlete was up there. It didn't look like a girl on the podium. It looked like a man standing on a podium with girls."

"I continued to race this athlete four more times to a total of five times. And, each time, I found myself displaced, back one place than what I deserved," she added. "I witnessed a teammate get pushed off the podium. And it was really heartbreaking to know that all the hard work that, as female athletes, we put in, especially at the collegiate level...we are not there for a participation trophy. We're there to compete. And it's just extremely deflating and frustrating to know that our hard work isn't going to pay off because the race is practically won before it's even started."

Madison DeBos, a cross country and track athlete at Southern Utah University, told Townhall she first competed against a biological male two years ago.

"I just remember showing up to the track meet and it being so disheartening, crazy that something like this is even happening in women's sports," she said. "I saw some other athletes speaking out and I thought, you know, our voices are better together."

Taylor Silverman, an amateur skateboarder, told Townhall that she's competed against "transgender-identifying" male athletes "a few different times." But, in December, she came in second place in a competition with a biological male who identified as a woman. The winner took home a prize of $5,000. When Silverman reached out to Red Bull, who put on the contest, to voice her concerns about the situation, she did not hear back.

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"I posted what happened on social media and my story went viral on the internet," she said. "I really just want to raise awareness because I don't want this to impact more girls."

Marshi Smith, a former swimmer at the University of Arizona, told Townhall how she and former all-American tennis player Kim Jones co-founded the advocacy group the Independent Council on Women's Sports. The controversy surrounding Lia Thomas is how the two eventually became connected. 

"I was an NCAA and Pac-10 champion in the 100-backstroke in 2005. So, watching on the television, the same meet that I competed in 17 years ago that was one of the highlights of truly my life, and feeling so disappointed and really anguished about witnessing the women today who I feel like were robbed of the opportunities that I had just a few years ago," Smith said. She added that she reached out to her former teammates from the University of Arizona and sent a collaborative letter to the NCAA in protest of the guidelines that allowed Thomas to compete. She said the letter was ignored.

"It's just such an honor to be standing with Kim and with all of these women who feel so passionate about preserving fairness for girls in sports," she said.

Jones is the mother of an Ivy League swimmer who competed against Thomas this past season. She told Townhall that she also wants to preserve women's sports for the next generation.

"Last year, my daughter had to race Lia Thomas in the Ivy League throughout the year. And what I learned is that women are easily cast aside and told to be quiet when they face an injustice. It's just not the world I'm willing to leave for my granddaughters," Jones said. "Women deserve respect, they deserve fair competition, they deserve equal access to opportunities relative to their male counterparts. I'm passionate about preserving that for the next group of women."

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Similarly, University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, who spoke at the rally, told Townhall that she is passionate about protecting women's sports and hopes to help future female athletes. Gaines, as Townhall reported, tied with Thomas at the NCAA championships in March. However, Thomas was the one who got to take the trophy home.

On the anniversary of Title IX, the Biden administration unveiled newly proposed protections for transgender Americans. GOP Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley shared that the Biden administration does not acknowledge that "sex" means "biological sex."

Kara Dansky, author of the book "The Abolition of Sex: How the ‘Transgender’ Agenda Harms Women and Girls," and president of the U.S. chapter of Women's Declaration International, explained to me how she is a Democrat but is "extremely disappointed" by how the Biden administration is erasing women and girls.

"Speaking solely for myself, I'm a lifelong Democrat. And I'm extremely disappointed in the current administration's attack on women's rights by redefining sex to include gender identity throughout federal administrative law," Dansky said. "It would be a travesty to try to redefine the word 'sex' for Title IX purposes, to include the nebulous, vague, and incoherent concept of gender identity."

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"There's a bill pending in the Senate right now, called the 'Equality Act,' which would be a disaster for women and girls because it would redefine sex to include gender identity throughout federal civil rights law," she added.

Former Democratic Presidential candidate and former Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard spoke at the rally, where she called out the left for turning against "objective reality" that only two genders exist.

"There are biological and physiological differences between men and women," Gabbard said in her remarks. "This is the height of disrespect, offense, and what at its core is a hatred for women."

"If a man can become a woman simply by declaring it to be so, then there is nothing that is real. There is nothing that is true. Anything can go," she added. 

"We've seen 50 years of progress since Title IX. But, the future of Title IX, the opportunities that have come about because of it, are at peril because of the actions and policies coming from the Biden administration and Congress' failure to act thus far to protect women and girls in sports," she continued. 

"It is for them that we take a stand for the truth. It is for them that we take a stand together, as Americans, express this call to action to everyone across the country to demand that Congress and the president take immediate action to uphold the original intent of Title IX and protect the lives, futures, and wellbeing of women everywhere."

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