Tuberville wonders why trans athletes can't just have a separate 'team of their own'

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The Alabama senator recentlypressed Biden's nominee to lead the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, Catherine Lhamon, about policies regarding transgender athletes.

A U.S. senator who has repeatedly challenged transgender equality recently proposed the idea that transgender students compete on a "team of their own," rather than with those of the same gender.

During a hearing Tuesday for Catherine Lhamon, President Joe Biden's nominee to lead the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) asked whether transgender athletes couldn't have their own separate team instead of playing on the team of their gender.

Lhamon previously worked in the same position for which she is now being considered under the Obama administration.

During her time in that role, the administration released a Dear Colleague letter that provided schools with guidance on issues of transgender equality. The letter stated that "when a school provides sex-segregated activities and facilities, transgender students must be allowed to participate in such activities and access such facilities consistent with their gender identity."

The Trump administration ditched those protections in 2017, but the Biden administration has since rolled out numerous executive orders, memorandums, and proposed rules to fight anti-trans discrimination, including discrimination against transgender youth in education.

Tuberville claimed on Tuesday that the Obama administration had "changed a couple processes" during Lhamon's time there, suggesting that, as a result, he was getting complaints from constituents about "this transgender problem."

"Now we're letting transgender athletes involved, dressing in the same dressing rooms, using the same restrooms. There's got to be an answer to this," he said. "... Given your record, Ms. Lhamon, do you believe that allowing transgender women to compete in women's sports should come at the cost of discriminating against biological women?"

Lhamon responded, "The promise of Title IX is that no one person shall be subject to discrimination on the basis of sex so I could not countenance discriminating against any student in the context of Title IX if I were enforcing Title IX. It protects everyone."

Tuberville continued to press the issue. "Do you not think that putting biological men in women's sports is not discriminating? Can we not have a biological transgender team of their own?" he asked.

He added separately, "I'm for transgender kids but we've got to find another way where they can compete."

Lhamon answered by citing a complaint that came to her attention during the Obama administration about a student who used a wheelchair and wanted to compete with his track team.

"At first his school told him no," she said. "Then they told him he could compete but his times wouldn't count. He would be on a special track. And then the state athletic association raised a set of concerns. The resolution in that agreement found a way for that student to compete safely fully as a member of the team, to have his times count, and to do it in a way that was safe and worked for all of the students."

Lhamon added that she wanted to "bring that lens to the work in any athletics context" so that any student who wanted to compete on a sports team was protected from discrimination.

Tuberville has a history of anti-trans comments. In February 2020, at a campaign luncheon, he told supporters, "I am against this transgender, guys turning into women, and winning all these state championships all over the country."

And in March, Tuberville tried to add an amendment to COVID-19 relief legislation that would have blocked schools from receiving federal funding if they let transgender athletes compete on the sports team of their gender. The amendment ultimately failed.

The same month, he wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Examiner opposing transgender athletes' full inclusion in sports that repeatedly used the term "biological males" to refer to transgender girls and women.

Several states, including Florida, Montana, and Tennessee, have recently enacted bills that prohibit transgender students from playing on the team of their gender. These efforts have mostly focused on stopping transgender girls and women from playing on their respective teams at the K-12 and collegiate level.

Texas lawmakers are also using a special legislative session to revive a previously failed transgender sports ban. Texas state Sen. Charles Perry (R) suggested at one point on Monday, during a hearing for that bill, that if transgender students were allowed to compete with cisgender students, there was a possibility of a future "without women's biological teams surviving."

Transgender youth across the country have subsequently been forced to speak out against these bills themselves.

As Adam, a transgender eighth-grader in Tennessee, told public radio station WKNO, "I would like to at least try to play other sports in the future, but with this new law I won't even have the opportunity."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.