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Three Connecticut high school girls file complaint over transgender athlete policy

GLASTONBURY -- Three Connecticut girls who run high school track have filed a federal discrimination complaint, claiming a statewide policy on transgender athletes has cost them top finishes in races and possibly college scholarships.

The complaint cites Title IX federal rules aimed at equal rights in sports for female athletes.

Glastonbury junior sprinter Selina Soule was one of three girls identified in the complaint, which was filed Monday with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. The complaint, which was submitted by the conservative Christian law firm Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of the students, says the policy violates federal protections for female athletes.

While traveling with her mother, Soule chose to not participate in a phone interview Wednesday. She said she fears retaliation after appearing on "Tucker Carlson Tonight" on Fox News.

“I have been vocal since earlier this winter and my mother has been for about a year now,” Soule told Carlson.

Soule’s mother, Bianca Stanescu, began gathering signatures at track meets last year, calling on the state legislature to require athletes to compete in sports based on their genders at birth, unless an athlete has had hormone therapy.

“There is a serious disadvantage,” said Stanescu. “There are situations like athletics where your personal decision, personal choice and personal view of who you are doesn’t change who you actually are biologically and physiologically.”

Two transgender female athletes named in the complaint, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, were unavailable to comment Wednesday, but they have both spoken openly about their transgender identities.

“Just like life, sports is not always fair,” said Dawn Ennis, the Managing Editor, for Outsports a website that covers LGBTQ sports and a transgender woman from West Hartford. “Those girls didn’t ask to be transgender. They didn’t decide to be transgender. They are transgender. What these girls want to do is run as their true selves.”

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference released a statement Wednesday:

“The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) is committed to equity in providing opportunities to student athletes in Connecticut.  The CIAC reviewed our transgender policy with the Office of Civil Rights in Boston earlier this school year to ensure compliance with Title IX.  In addition to reviewing the policy with our legal counsel, the CIAC also discussed our current policy with Connecticut’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities to ensure compliance with Connecticut legislation protecting students (and others) in their gender expression and identity.  While the CIAC has not yet been contacted by the Office of Civil Rights of the United States Department of Education, we will cooperate fully if OCR decides to investigate this complaint.  We take such matters seriously, and we believe that the current CIAC policy is appropriate under both Connecticut law and Title IX.”

“Should we take tall athletes out of pole vaulting?” Ennis wonders. “Should we take fastest runners out of track?”

Yearwood’s mother told FOX61 the American Civil Liberties Union was working on responding to the complaint on behalf of the transgender girls.

Statement from Terry Miller:

I have faced discrimination in every aspect of my life and I no longer want to remain silent. I am a girl and I am a runner. I participate in athletics just like my peers to excel, find community and meaning in my life. It is both unfair and painful that my victories have to be attacked and my hard work ignored. Living in a state that protects my rights is something that I do not take for granted. So many young trans people face exclusion at school and in athletics and it contributes to the horrible pain and discrimination that my community faces. The more we are told that we don’t belong and should be ashamed of who we are, the fewer opportunities we have to participate in sports at all. And being an athlete can help us survive. But instead we are being told to be quiet, to go home, to stop being who we are. I will continue to fight for all trans people to compete and participate consistent with who we are. There is a long history of excluding Black girls from sport and policing our bodies. I am a runner and I will keep running and keep fighting for my existence, my community and my rights.

Statement from Andraya Yearwood:

I have known two things for most of my life: I am a girl and I love to run. There is no shortage of discrimination that I face as a young Black woman who is transgender. I have to wake up every day in a world where people who look like me face so many scary and unfair things. I am lucky to live in a state that protects my rights and to have a family that supports me. This is what keeps me going.  Every day I train hard - I work hard to succeed on the track, to support my teammates, and to make my community proud. It is so painful that people not only want to tear down my successes but take down the laws and policies that protect people like me. I will never stop being me!  I will never stop running!   I hope that the next generation of trans youth doesn't have to fight the fights that I have. I hope they can be celebrated when they succeed not demonized. For the next generation, I run for you!

Statement from Chase Strangio, Staff Attorney with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project:

It is heartbreaking to see yet another attack on trans youth for simply participating in activities alongside their peers. Discrimination on the basis of sex extends to trans people. Girls who are transgender are girls. Attacking two Black young women who are simply participating in the sport they love just because they are transgender is wrong, it is dangerous, and it is distorts Title IX, which is a law that protects all students on the basis of sex. Efforts to undermine Title IX by claiming it doesn’t apply to a subset of girls will ultimately hurt all students

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