To integrate a transgender minority to the detriment of female athletes as a whole? GETTY IMAGES

In the United States, there is a debate about the inclusion of transgender people in sports activities, and the new law does not satisfy the UN Special Rapporteur, Reem Alsalem, who believes it would be to the detriment of cisgender female athletes. The controversy continues.

The United States, the world's leading economic and sporting power, is currently debating an amendment to education legislation that, among other things, includes a special section on the inclusion of transgender people. It is called Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and was proposed in April by the Democratic administration of President Joe Biden. 

This legal reform is currently being debated in the United States to better integrate transgender people into sports activities. But what may be inclusive for one group may be detrimental to female athletes currently competing. This is the argument put forward by the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Ms Reem Alsalem. 

Why would the inclusion of some be detrimental to others? Because, among other things, it denies cisgender girls or women the opportunity to compete on a level playing field, which can lead to athletic failure and the loss of athletic and scholarship opportunities. When cisgender women have to compete with trans women, trans athletes have an unfair advantage because the physical-biological differences are significant. 

It is not just a matter of sporting results but also of opportunities that would be lost to change or improve the lives of American girls, teens and young women. The United States has a sports system that is linked to education from college through to university, which is often only accessible through sporting merit (and scholarships) to those from low-income backgrounds, as is often the case with basketball players who may not have been able to attend university without their talent on the court.

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, after winning a race in February 2022. GETTY IMAGES
Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, after winning a race in February 2022. GETTY IMAGES

The reform proposed by the Democratic Party "would have a detrimental effect on the participation of biological women and girls in sport," said the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Reem Alsalem. "Among other things, it would deny them the opportunity to compete fairly. This would result in the loss of sports and scholarship opportunities," she argued.

Title IX amended US education laws with a single paragraph to eliminate sexual discrimination against women in education, an issue closely linked to sports in the United States. It also aimed to ensure that girls had access to the same opportunities as boys.

For the past eight months, the U.S. Department of Education has been proposing to amend this title to avoid, among other things, restrictions on athletes whose gender identity does not match their biological sex. The aim seems to be noble: to reduce the number of cases where transgender people have been excluded from certain competitions, but the consequences could be very harmful to the majority.

Ms Asaleem also warned that the changes would violate the right to privacy as it is currently understood, or at least the intimate spaces such as showers and separate changing rooms for men and women. It would also lead to "a loss of privacy and an increased risk of physical injury due to greater exposure to sexual harassment and voyeurism. It would also result in more frequent and cumulative psychological distress due to the loss of privacy and fair and equal sporting and academic opportunities," the rapporteur claimed.

"If adopted, the proposed changes would violate the United States' international human rights obligations and commitments, all of which relate to the prevention of all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls based on their sex," concluded the 47-year-old Egyptian, who serves as the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls from 2021.