School of Cultural Studies and Humanities

Biden’s role in restoring LGBTQ+ students' freedom in school sports

BA (Hons) Media Communication Cultures student, Mae Harrison, shares with us this opinion piece in Biden's role in restoring LBTQ+ students' freedom in school sports.

Group shot of three girls playing sport, giving high fives

American LGBTQ+ students moved one step closer to gender inclusivity, after taking a giant step back in the wake of Trump’s presidential residency - a sense of hope has been restored. The order entitled “Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation” extends safety measures by impeding sex discrimination in schools and provides protection for LGBTQ+ people in the workplace.

President Biden’s spokesperson, Jen Psaki claims “Trans rights are human rights”, however these words do not promise the race to gender inclusivity is complete just yet. The new president has already begun taking small steps by introducing a new website contract for the White House which invites users to select their own pronouns.

Focusing on the executive order’s approach to LGBTQ+ members' school experience, it seems many liberal voters are relieved, while conservatives are dissatisfied to say the least. This ongoing debate derives from the order which explains cisgender and transgender students have the right to learn in a safe community without being a target of discrimination, along with being able to engage in school sports.

Despite all the important things Biden is doing by signing papers at his desk, critics note that the order fails to comment on the debate on transgender athletes competing against other athletes in school competitions. Critics argue this puts biological females at a disadvantage when up against transgender females. The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) specify trans athletes are permitted to compete in school sports without legal recognition of the person’s transitional sex. At the critics’ convenience some may say, transgender women are required to undergo one year of hormone treatment before competing in school sports and trans men are only to compete in female sports, until they have the correct testosterone levels.

Critics did not give President Biden long to catch his breath before expressing their opinions online. Tweets claim the order will threaten women’s rights - the little that they do have. This led to the media frenzy #BidenErasedWomen on Twitter.

Tennessee Republican Bill Lee’s stated, “I do believe that transgenders participating in women’s sports will destroy women’s sports”. Quite the controversial statement if you ask me! The Republican-governed state of Tennessee does not collect figures for transgender students participating in public school sports, therefore his comments seem to be based on fear mongering rather than the experiences of actual trans and cis gendered athletes.

Biden’s order is not all that simple to effect because of the laws in each state. Different schools in different states in the USA carry out particular regulations in regard to the LGBTQ+ community. At present, only 16 states provide full inclusion of sport for LGBTQ+ members. Biden’s order at least attempts to rectify that.

To discuss some of the progress Americans are making from ‘across the pond’ is beneficial for all of us in the UK too. Why? History shows the UK often follows suit in discussing the debates first had by our political allies in the US. What happens in America often makes its way here.

It is in most decent humans' interest that trans communities have human rights supported by the correct legislation, starting from one of society's largest institutions: schools. School years are the most influential times for young people to form these beliefs about others. Thankfully the Equality Act of 2010 protects trans communities against discrimination on the basis of gender identity in the UK but the debates around trans rights, both here and in the US, is still ongoing. Beginning his presidency with advancing public knowledge on LGBTQ+ in mind, it’s clear Biden’s order can give the LGBTQ+ community in the US a sense of hope concerning sex and gender discrimination in schools.

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