White House press secretary Jen Psaki looked more than a bit perturbed when a Fox News Radio reporter asked about President Biden’s positions on transgender student athletes. Psaki’s short but effective response to Rachel Sutherland at yesterday’s press briefing quickly put her and her question in their rightful place.
Saying she had a question about the president’s “transgender rights executive actions, specifically when it comes to high school sports,” Sutherland went on to ask a rambling question based on debunked tropes that trans student athletes have an unfair advantage over cis athletes.
“What message would the White House have for trans girls and cis girls who may end up competing against each other, and sparking some lawsuits and some concern among parents,” Sutherland asked. “So does this administration have guidance for schools on dealing with disputes rising for trans girls competing against and with cis girls?”
“I’m not sure what your question is,” replied Psaki when Sutherland had finished.
“The president’s executive order…”
“I’m familiar with the order but what was your question about?” Psaki interrupted.
“My question is does the president have a message for local school officials in dealing with these kinds of disputes that are already starting to arise between the trans girls who are competing and cis girls and a level playing field, particularly in high school sports when it leads to college scholarships," Sutherland rephrased. "Is there any kind of messaging or clarification the White House wants to give on the executive order?”
Psaki's response was succinct.
“I would just say that the president’s belief is that trans rights are human rights, and that’s why he signed that executive order,” Psaki said. “In terms of the determinations by universities and colleges, I certainly defer to them.”
The response of Psaki on behalf of the Biden administration represents a stark departure in policy from the previous administration. Trump’s Department of Education and some states had attacked the rights of trans student athletes to compete according to their true gender — those attacks are ongoing at the state level. Last year, Idaho passed a bill forcing trans student athletes to compete according to the gender assigned at birth. A challenge brought in federal court by trans student athlete Lindsay Hecox put a temporary halt to that discriminatory law, though. Then-Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos took a last swipe on behalf of the outgoing Trump administration with a hateful policy memorandum which encouraged discrimination against trans youth in the education system. At least one governor told DeVos to “butt out” on the topic of trans student athletes. But the fight is not over.
“Are you in North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, or Alabama,” Chase Strangio, the deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU's LGBT & HIV Project tweeted this morning. “If so, your state is currently advancing anti-trans bills and we need your help to stop them.” The tweet was the beginning of a thread that detailed seven bills that are still in motion that in some way restrict the inclusion of trans athletes in sports.