Lia Thomas Was Just the Beginning. Biden Administration Wants to Eliminate Women’s Sports.


Lia Thomas Was Just the Beginning. Biden Administration Wants to Eliminate Women’s Sports.

Apr 11, 2022 7 min read

Commentary By

Sarah Parshall Perry @SarahPPerry

Senior Legal Fellow, Meese Center

Abby Kassal

Spring 2022 Member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation

Biological male Lia Thomas poses after winning the 500 Yard Freestyle during the 2022 NCAA Division I Women's Swimming & Diving Championship on March 17, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. Mike Comer / NCAA Photos / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

Women are the clear losers—finding themselves right back where they started in their quest for educational, athletic, and professional parity.        

With the Education Department’s impending rule change on Title IX, Lia Thomas will be just the beginning of the decimation of women’s opportunities.

It is time for honesty on the nature of biology as immutable and unchangeable, and on the purpose and essence of Title IX.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in any educational program that is federally funded either directly or indirectly.

But in a painful twist of irony, that same rule is now on the chopping block, thanks to an impending change in Title IX’s interpretation and application that, according to published reports, will be coming soon from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

In addition to removing commonsense, due process protections for those accused of sexual assault on campus (the right to call witnesses or introduce evidence, for example), this new Title IX rule will unilaterally expand the prohibition against discrimination based on “sex” to include: “sex stereotypes, sex-related characteristics (including intersex traits), pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”

For anyone who’s been half awake since January 2021, it’s clear that this administration’s pet mission is to advance the transgender agenda.

Whether by choosing male Cabinet members that identify as women or forcing “gender-affirming” treatments onto doctors with conscience objections, to hear the Biden administration tell it, you might think that trans Americans outnumber “cisgender” Americans, and an epidemic of discrimination and violence is raging against everyone who identifies as trans.

Except here’s the problem: they don’t, and there isn’t. This administration has turned the nature of democracy (or, the rule of majority) on its head by bending the 99 to the will of the one. Or, more accurately, the six-tenths of 1% (0.6%).

Those kinds of numbers make this administration’s “democratic” policies look more like those of a dictatorship.

In this new blue and pink revolution, women are the clear losers—finding themselves right back where they started in their quest for educational, athletic, and professional parity.        

Considered a feminist triumph at the time, Title IX’s passage represented a historic advancement for women, allowing them both equal educational opportunities and a clear pathway to success later in life. In fact, one study shows that 94% of female executives once played competitive sports.

Title IX’s reverberations are felt by the authors to this day.

As a young athlete, some of Abby’s formative moments involved cheering on the closest National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I women’s soccer team. Her team of 8-year-old girls loved to watch the women they hoped to one day be. Now, she stands in their shoes, serving as role model for young girls around the country, competing on a NCAA Division I soccer team of her own.

As a mother, some of Sarah’s proudest moments have been watching her teenage daughter compete on a nationally ranked volleyball team and dream of one day earning a spot on a college roster. Sarah remembers well the varsity softball years of her own youth, in which Title IX offered her the chance to do what she loved.  

How quickly the chances of these women for athletic and educational success might have been jeopardized by the inclusion of biological males in their chosen athletic programs. How backward it is to take a women’s movement “win” and subjugate it to a “loss” to the agenda of the radical few.

On March 17, University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male who competed from 2017-2019 on the University of Pennsylvania men’s swim team as Will Thomas, was crowned the women’s NCAA champion for the 500-yard freestyle event after a year of hormone therapy. Will was an average swimmer—ranked No. 462 in the nation—until he decided he was actually a woman and took a few months of hormone suppressants to prove it.

Predictably, no amount of hormone therapy could alter Lia’s massive masculine body frame, denser muscle mass, larger lung size, and greater bone density. Having abandoned his identity as “Will,” “Lia” rocketed to No. 1 in the women’s national swimming rankings.

So much for women’s progress.

With the Education Department’s impending rule change on Title IX, Lia Thomas will be just the beginning of the decimation of women’s educational and athletic opportunities. If the final Title IX rule is approved, schools across the country can kiss sex equality goodbye.

The Department of Education signaled its rule change as far back as June 2021. A Federal Notice of Interpretation of Title IX, published by the Department of Education, indicated that based on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County in 2020, sex discrimination would be interpreted within Title IX to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Applying this rationale to Title IX—erroneously, as Sarah has previously written—removes the law’s intended protections for women and vitiates its very purpose in the first place.

Concurrently with the unprecedented 2022 NCAA women’s swimming championships, various states moved to ensure that female athletes in their jurisdictions would not have to face the same violations of Title IX in athletic competitions.

Thirteen states have now passed, and their governors have now signed, bills to prevent biological males who identify as females from competing in girls sports.

Both the Utah and the Indiana state legislatures passed bills like these, and in both states, the Republican governors vetoed the bills. But the Legislature in Utah rebounded, and overrode the governor’s veto. Just a few days ago, South Carolina’s House of Representatives was the latest to pass a bill protecting girls and young women in sport. It now heads to the state Senate for consideration.

Not every female athlete will win a trophy or a scholarship. And the impact that transgender athletes competing in women’s athletics will have on those female athletes who aren’t competing for trophies and scholarships isn’t often discussed. But it’s significant. In fact, most college athletes will never compete for an NCAA title, and many receive little to no scholarship money during their athletic careers.

A release from the NCAA in August 2020 noted that only 57% of all student athletes receive athletic scholarships—and most of these student athletes receive partial scholarships, despite the common misconception that college athletes generally receive full-ride scholarships.

When 43% of NCAA student athletes don’t even receive partial athletic scholarships, the issue’s scope becomes clearer. These students aren’t just losing a chance to get money for school, they’re losing a chance to get on the playing field in the first place.

Athletics fosters natural competition. According to a 2020 NCAA research study, only about 0.06% of male high school athletes and 0.06% of female high school athletes progress to compete in NCAA sports at any level (Division I, II, or III). The percentage shrinks even more when considering athletes competing in each division.

On each team at each school in all three NCAA divisions, the most talented competitors win scholarships. But a certain number of athletes on every team choose to play despite a lack of financial aid. These athletes can and do contribute just as much to their teams as their teammates who receive scholarships. But women who are members of college athletics teams, but who are on the lower end of the talent range, will be the first victims of this new, lawless interpretation of Title IX.  

It is time for honesty on the nature of biology as immutable and unchangeable, and on the purpose and essence of Title IX—a federal law once advanced by liberals and feminists as ultimately protective of the rights of women and girls (but on which many have turned their backs).

When the Department of Education, the NCAA, and governors advocate for the inclusion of biological males in women’s athletics, they are undoing the 50 years of progress made under Title IX. Now, more than ever, female athletes are fighting for their right to fairly compete.

Along with filling the shoes of the athletes who paved the way, we must resist such a lawless interpretation of longstanding law to ensure that the next generation of female athletes gets the same opportunities we had—and no less.

A coalition of 26 signatories has signaled its concerns with the impending rule change in a letter released Monday, and on Tuesday, 15 attorneys general (led by the Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen) sent a letter to the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education, demanding the rule-making process on Title IX be stopped and threatening legal action.

The department’s announcement of the proposed Title IX rule is expected sometime this month.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal

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