Biden Administration Proposes New Regulations to Prevent Blanket Bans on Transgender Athletes in School Sports

The Biden Administration has proposed new regulations to prevent blanket bans on transgender athletes participating in school sports. The proposed rule would add language to Title IX, a law prohibiting gender-based discrimination in school activities, which would allow individual teams at public schools and universities to ban athletes from competing on teams outside of their sex assigned at birth if factors like competitive fairness come into question. However, the rule would not allow schools to impose a “one-size-fits-all policy that categorically bans transgender students from participating on teams consistent with their gender identity.”

While the proposed policy appears to leave it solely at teams’ discretion to determine policies on transgender participation, the Education Department stated that teams should take into account the level of competition and grade or education level when developing rules. Ideally, transgender restrictions should only be used for highly competitive sports at the high school or college levels, since elementary and middle school sports are generally more focused on “basic skills in physical fitness, leadership, and teamwork.”

The Education Department said, “For older students, especially at the high school and college level, the Department expects that sex-related criteria that limit participation of some transgender students may be permitted, in some cases, when they enable the school to achieve an important educational objective, such as fairness in competition.”

Concerns about transgender athletes, specifically trans women who were assigned male at birth, having an unfair advantage in school sports have significantly intensified in recent years. The issue has become one of the nation’s most polarizing culture war debates, with Republican-controlled state legislatures rushing over the past few years to enact broad bans, a gambit LGBTQ rights groups have argued is unfairly exclusionary to transgender students and often unnecessary.

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a request from West Virginia to prohibit a 12-year-old transgender girl from competing on her school’s track team—the first ruling the nation’s highest court has made on a transgender athlete issue.

At least 16 states have enacted transgender athlete bans at the high school level or beyond, according to the Associated Press. Top GOP figures like former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have become some of the most vocal critics of trans women competing in sports—a concept DeSantis called an effort “to destroy women’s athletics” and Trump has labeled “ridiculous.”