Story at a glance

  • President Biden signed an executive order “combating discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.”
  • In Montana, lawmakers are considering a bill that would prevent transgender students from participating on certain sports teams.
  • The debate over permitting transgender athletes in gendered sports has resulted in fragmented policies across the country.

On his first day in office, President Biden guaranteed new protections for the LGBTQ+ community under an executive order. But for transgender athletes, the move isn’t quite a victory. 

"Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports," reads the executive order "on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation."


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The administration concludes that under the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Bostock v. Clayton County, Title IX of the Education Amendments also prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, “so long as the laws do not contain sufficient indications to the contrary.” But state laws on transgender students’ right to participate in sports are increasingly fragmented.

In Montana, lawmakers introduced a bill that would require public school athletic teams to be designated based on biological sex, effectively preventing transgender students from participating in gendered sports. The bill cites "inherent differences between men and women," including testosterone levels, which are already regulated by ruling bodies such as the NCAA. The association requires one year of hormone treatment as a condition prior to competing on a female team.

“I submit to you that, if you don’t pass legislation such as this, that it will come to the day where there will be no room, no place, for women to compete, and at that point, I say to you, where shall we go, against whom shall we compete, and to whom shall we turn for redress?” said Idaho Republican state Rep. Barbara Ehardt, who sponsored a similar bill in her state that has been challenged in court and issued a temporary injunction. 


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The new executive order effectively nullifies a memo from the outgoing Trump administration instructing public school educators that the "prohibition on sex discrimination" in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not apply to Title IX. Still, LGBTQ+ advocates are gearing up for a battle. 

“It is unconscionable that Montana lawmakers are focused on restricting transgender and nonbinary youth’s ability to play school sports in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic and economic turmoil. Transgender students, like all students, deserve the chance to learn teamwork and to build self-esteem and a sense of belonging with their peers through sports,” said Sam Brinton, VP of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project.

The fight for transgender rights in Montana's legislature doesn’t end there, as lawmakers consider a second bill that would prohibit health care providers from performing sex reassignment or gender confirmation procedures, specifically including puberty-blocking drugs or sex hormones for gender dysphoria and gender reassignment surgery, on those younger than 18. Research shows that access to puberty blockers can decrease the risk of suicide in transgender teens, who are at higher risk than their cisgender peers.


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Published on Jan 21, 2021