Perspectives; Thoughts; Comments; Opinions; Discussions

Reported By Ryan Foley, Christian Post Reporter| Monday, May 17, 2021

Read more at Female athletes who lost to trans males seek ‘fair playing field’ | Politics | The Christian Post

Track and field
Athletes compete in the 5,000-meter final during the Oregon Relays at Hayward Field on April 23, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon. | Getty Images/Steph Chambers

Linnea Saltz wants to be a lobbyist. Haley Tanne intends to pursue a career as a physician’s assistant. Chelsea Mitchell plans to obtain a degree in marketing. While all three women have different career aspirations, they all have one common experience: losing to biological males who identify as females in female track competitions. 

Athletics have played an essential role in all three women’s lives, and they take a great deal of pride in their accomplishments throughout high school and college. However, they have been negatively impacted by policies allowing biological males who identify as females to compete on women’s sports teams, leading them and other female athletes to embrace varying degrees of activism on the issue. Their activism comes as an effort is underway that could lead to more young female athletes experiencing the same setbacks as Saltz, Tanne and Mitchell as they seek to advance their athletic and career goals in both high school and college. 

Policies in various states and athletic associations — such as the NCAA — permit trans-identified males to compete in women’s athletic events. Additionally, a wide-reaching legislative initiative billed by Democrats in U.S. Congress as necessary to enshrine federal protections for trans-identified individuals into federal law that has passed in the House of Representatives has a provision banning sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. Female athletes of all ages worry that by requiring schools to allow athletes to play on sports teams that correspond with their gender identity instead of their biological sex, females will be placed at a competitive disadvantage.

As President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats push for the passage of the Equality Act, female athletes of all political persuasions are speaking out in defense of girls’ and women’s sports. 

Fighting for an “equal playing field”

Linnea Saltz
Linnea Saltz, a former student of Southern Utah University, runs in a track competition. | Jeff Porcaro

One of those voices is Saltz, a graduate student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., who previously ran track at Southern Utah University. 

Saltz told The Christian Post that she began running in high school.

“I wasn’t one of those typical athletes that had just been running their entire life. I always did different sports such as … dance and cheer and gymnastics,” she explained. “And in sophomore year of high school, I decided to go out and try running track. My brother at the time was participating in baseball and cross country, and I thought running would be fun and running would be something that we could potentially bond over.” 

After joining the track team and making varsity in her first year, Saltz “fell in love” with the sport and wanted to continue running throughout college. 

The athlete spent most of her college athletic career competing solely against biological females, but that changed in the summer of 2019 when her coaches at Southern Utah University told her that an athlete at a competing university who previously competed as a male would be competing as a female.

“I immediately read through the NCAA Gender Inclusion Handbook,” she recalled. After reviewing the handbook, Saltz discovered that “there wasn’t a lot of regulation, there wasn’t a lot of jurisdiction, there was … a lot of leeway.”

“There was a lot of ambiguity in the sense that it didn’t seem as if there was a real strict protocol in terms of how these kinds of athletes would be able to compete within the NCAA,” Saltz recalls.

Saltz reached out to the NCAA, telling them that the organization needed to update its protocols. In response to her concerns, the NCAA sent Saltz an e-mail informing her that “the rules are as they are and that isn’t going to change.” Saltz told CP that a trans-identified student from the University of Montana competed against her and other runners from Southern Utah in a distance running relay. 

“I competed against a biological male, and our relay team lost,” she recounted. “During the competition, it was seen that the coach was telling the athlete to slow down during the race as they were winning by a pretty large margin.”

The NCAA’s policy regarding transgender athletes, as described by Saltz, allows males or females in transition to take a year off to undergo hormone suppression therapy. Upon completion of the therapy, she alleged, “they can then come back and compete in the opposite gender category with no … continuous testing, with no marks of certain estrogen or testosterone levels or anything of that nature.” 

In its handbook, the NCAA argued that “any strength and endurance advantages a transgender woman arguably may have as a result of her prior testosterone levels dissipate after about one year of estrogen or testosterone-suppression therapy.” The handbook further argued that medical experts have said that the “assumption that a transgender woman competing on a women’s team would have a competitive advantage outside the range of performance and competitive advantage or disadvantage that already exists among female athletes is not supported by evidence.”

However, a study conducted by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that even after a year of hormone treatments, trans-identified males still maintain an advantage over biological females in sports. The study also revealed that trans-identified males remained 12% faster than the average biological females of similar ages two years after taking hormones. 

Saltz says she is speaking out about the issue because she has a desire to prevent other women from having “to feel as if they’ve already been beat before they’ve started a race or they’ve been beaten before entering the arena or playing basketball or whatever sport it may be.” 

“It doesn’t even have to do just with your sport. It has everything to do with just women fighting … for an equal opportunity and an equal playing field in the NCAA and in the sports world,” Saltz assured.

While Saltz has received “nothing but positive feedback” from her coaches about expressing her opinion and concerns, she acknowledged that she does get “lots of backlash.”

“I do get lots of people reaching out to me saying horrible things about me. But at the end of the day, that doesn’t change the way I felt in my particular situation, and it’s not going to silence my voice,” she assured. 

Even before the Equality Act first came up for a vote in the House in May 2019, policies allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports have prevented biological females from taking the top spots in some athletic competitions. In early 2020, Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, Alanna Smith and Ashley Nicoletti sued the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the Connecticut Association of Schools and their individual school districts over policies allowing trans-identified males to compete in women’s sports at the K-12 level. A fact sheet compiled by the conservative legal nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, which has represented the girls in their litigation and won several Supreme Court cases, highlights how such policies harmed their clients.

Soule “missed qualifying for the state championship 55m final and an opportunity to qualify for the New England championship by one spot in 2018-19 season” because “two spots were taken by males.” 

Mitchell “lost four (4) girls’ state championships, two (2) all-New England awards, and many other awards to male competitors.” 

Smith “ran a 2nd place finish in the 200m at the New England Regional Championships, but was dropped to 3rd behind a male competitor.” Nicoletti “missed an opportunity to compete at the 2019 outdoor State Open Championship due to two male competitors.” 

“There have been countless other female athletes in the state of Connecticut, as well as my entire indoor track team,” Soule said in a 2019 interview. “We missed out on winning the state open championship because of the team that the transgender athlete was on.”

However, advocates with the American Civil Liberties Union claim that the girls are “attacking two black young [men] who are simply participating in the sport they love just because they are transgender.” Last month, a federal judge appointed by President Bill Clinton dismissed the girls’ lawsuit.

The U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice, under the Trump administration, had investigated the girls’ complaint. The government sided with the female athletes in their lawsuit, arguing that allowing trans-identified male athletes to compete in female competitions violated Title IX rights. But the Connecticut females have received less support under the Biden administration, which has reversed many of the Trump-era positions on the transgender issue. 

The Big Picture: The Equality Act “erases what a woman is”

In 1972, Congress passed Title IX federal civil rights law to guarantee equal opportunities for women and girls in education, including sports. As the advocacy organization Independent Women’s Voice points out, “Title IX’s regulations allow schools to operate ‘separate teams for members of each sex.’” 

The group contends that “given the competitive advantage that male athletes generally have over female athletes, these regulations play an important role in expanding athletic opportunities for women and girls,” crediting Title IX for the “explosion of women’s high school and college sports.” 

The Equality Act’s opponents — from feminists to Christian conservatives — warn that the legislation championed by Democrats threatens to roll back this progress. Congressional Democrats’ efforts to pass the Equality Act date back to the 116th U.S. Congress, which met from 2019 through 2020. The measure easily passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. It failed to become law as a result of opposition from the Republican-controlled Senate as well as the Trump administration.  

When Democrats took complete control of the federal government following the 2020 elections, they made the passage of the Equality Act a top priority. Biden promised to sign the legislation into law in his first 100 days in office on the campaign trail. The Democratic-controlled House passed the Equality Act in February, but it has stalled in the Senate amid opposition from both Democrats and Republicans. Biden has attempted to essentially enact some of the Equality Act’s provisions via executive order. 

On his first day in office, the president signed an executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The executive order maintains that “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.” 

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in an employment discrimination case that the protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which outlaws discrimination based on sex, also apply to sexual orientation and gender identity. The Biden administration has used that ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County to justify policies preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Several states have passed legislation banning trans-identified males from competing in women’s sports in recent years and months. Such efforts have been met with opposition from the NCAA, a leading body that oversees athletics at colleges and universities nationwide.

Beth Stelzer, an amateur powerlifter who founded the activist collective Save Women’s Sports, has emerged as one of the most outspoken supporters of these legislative efforts.

Beth Stelzer
Beth Stelzer, an amateur powerlifter, is the founder of Save Women’s Sports, an advocacy group that pushes back against the effort to allow trans-identified males to compete in women’s sports. | Stephanie Foto

According to Save Women’s Sports, six states have passed laws restricting participation in women’s sports to biological females in 2021. Those states are Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee and West Virginia. Idaho passed a measure to that effect in 2020, which was met with resistance from the courts. Stelzer has traveled the country to testify in favor of such legislation as state legislatures debate the bills. More than two dozen similar bills have been introduced at the state level in 2021. 

“It has been going great,” Stelzer told CP. “Of course, there are times that I have the opposition harassing me. But the Capitols always have security that makes me feel safe.” 

“We’re going to keep the pressure on and we won’t back down,” she vowed. “We might even have more states enter in bills before their session ends.” 

The ACLU claims that bills that seek to limit female sports to only biological females are discriminatory because they would deny trans students the right to play sports consistent with their gender identity. Some Democrats believe that federal discrimination laws that protect based on sex should be interpreted to include sexual orientation and gender identity even though those terms are not included in the text of those laws. 

Stelzer shared her concern that by equating “gender identity” with sex, the Equality Act “erases what a woman is.” 

Such an action, she believes, “erases the definition of womanhood and allows anyone to claim our spaces — that’s on the sports teams, that’s in restrooms, that’s in crisis shelters, hospital wards.”

“Our sex-separated spaces will be gone,” she fears. 

The Save Women’s Sports website features the stories of female athletes who support the organization’s mission. 

“I’m getting numerous messages daily now of support coming into just my e-mail and I’m seeing more and more and more support on social media,” Stelzer explained. 

She alleged that if the Equality Act becomes law, “women’s sports will fade away” because “it will not take long until all of the records will be held by males.” 

Stelzer asserted that participating in sports gives women “the building blocks to lead our futures,” citing the “90-some percent of female CEOs” who once played sports. 

A similar participation rate also applies to “government officials that are females,” she maintained.

“Women have become the majority of the population. We are becoming economic powerhouses, and there is an ideology out there trying to erase us. And that’s what Biden is going to do if he signs the Equality Act,” she argued. 

Describing Save Women’s Sports as a “nonpartisan, grassroots coalition,” Stelzer told CP that “we have people from all sides of the political spectrum, including transgender athletes, that support us in this.”

“And, it’s really sad that all the opposition has is name-calling and attack and blaming to create a toxic environment [so] that people won’t speak out,” she added. 

She urged female athletes with concerns to not “let the bullies bully you … into silence because that’s what basically women like me have become, the silent majority.”

Haley Tanne, a student athlete at Southern Utah University, runs in a track competition. | Haley Tanne

Saltz spoke about her experience at the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this year, warning that female athletes would be “watching their own sports from the sidelines” if the Equality Act became law. 

Saltz recalled the moment that coaches at Southern Utah told her that she would have to compete against a biological male. 

“It was really just a discouraging moment for me to hear that someone that had been running not only 10 seconds faster than me in my event, but running a world record time for women previously as a male, is now competing against us as females,” she said. 

She characterized her experience as an “interesting kind of situation” that “was really hard to … understand.” 

Saltz predicted that if “biological males that possess physiological advantages over biological females” are allowed to compete in women’s sports, girls are “no longer going to be interested in competing and being a part of sports.” 

Haley Tanne, a junior at Southern Utah University who used to run with Saltz, has also spoken out about her concerns with allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports. Tanne ran with Saltz in the relay race against the biological male.

“I ran the same leg as her. We both did the mile and it was just crazy watching as she … steadily … moved her way all the way up to … the front of the race,” Tanne explained in an interview. 

And I just remember feeling so angry and confused that this was even happening.”

Like Saltz, Tanne first heard that she would be competing against a trans-identified male from her coach at Southern Utah University.A Message from

I remember kind of thinking ‘That’s crazy, that’s not going to happen.’ Like, ‘is this a joke?’” she asked.

“It just felt like it was so crazy to me that people couldn’t see this advantage and that people were going along with it.”

Both Saltz and Tanne praised the efforts by states to consider and pass bills banning biological males who identify as females from competing in women’s sports. Saltz expressed gratitude that the states were “creating the momentum” needed to address “something that needs to be talked about.” Meanwhile, Tanne remarked that “it feels good to just feel like I’m not crazy, that other people see this as an issue and are willing to pass it and move forward.”

“I think that overall, just taking out the emotion from it and looking at it logically, I think that this is a good thing,” Tanne added. “And … I think at the end of the day, we should make a goal to include all athletes competing in sports. But I think we should start with female sports and making sure that women’s sports are a fair playing field.”

She stressed the importance of addressing the issue from a “scientific standpoint,” adding “males are born with … different bone structures, [and] different lung capacities.”

In light of the biological differences between males and females, Tanne argued that “it’s not fair” to allow biological males to compete on women’s sports teams, adding “I think it’s kind of sad that the NCAA isn’t able to see that.” 

As with Saltz, Tanne’s foray into running was spurred by the encouragement of a family member.

“My sister introduced me to cross-country when I was a freshman in high school, and I remember training with them in the summer,” Tanne stated. “And my coach approached me and told me that just based off of the talent I had shown so far in the season that I could potentially run in college. And so that’s when I really became excited about running.” Since competing against the trans-identified male in the relay race, neither Saltz nor Tanne have had to compete against another biological male. 

In addition to college athletes, well-known retired athletes have also spoken out against the effort to allow trans-identified males to compete in women’s sports, including former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies, former tennis player Martina Navratilova and former golfer Nancy Lopez.

Progressives have maintained that trans-identified athletes don’t necessarily have an advantage over biological female athletes. Earlier this year, the ACLU argued that “Trans athletes do not have an unfair advantage in sports.” The legal group added that: “Trans athletes vary in athletic ability just like cisgender athletes.” The group asserted that in many cases, biological female athletes have performed “as well or better” than trans competitors. 

The ACLU’s statement faced immense criticism online as much has been reported on the many physical advantages that biological males can have over females, including “larger hearts and lungs, more oxygenated blood, more fast-twitch muscle fiber, greater upper-body muscle mass, greater lower-body muscle mass, greater bone density.”

Some female athletes and their families contend that the participation of trans-identified athletes in girls’ sports can have a “ripple effect” that will impact some females who participate in the competition, if not all. 

“A Ripple Effect”

While the collegiate athletic careers of Saltz and Tanne are coming to a close, the collegiate athletic careers of two of the plaintiffs in the Connecticut case are just beginning. Soule and Mitchell are now freshmen in college. As the threat of having to compete against trans-identified males looms large in light of the NCAA policy, the legal effort to remedy the losses they experienced to biological males in high school and prevent other girls from having to go through the same experience continues. 

Chelsea Mitchell’s mother, Christy, and Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Christiana Holcomb spoke with CP. Mitchell said that her daughter has “always been involved in sports,” starting with soccer in kindergarten with soccer and later played basketball. 

“Track isn’t available in our town until you hit middle school, so she started track in middle school and she was pretty good and got really serious about it when she started high school,” the mother said. “She qualified, competed for the state championship in her freshman year and she … competed at that really high level all throughout her high school years.”

According to Mitchell, Chelsea “competed against transgender athletes all four years of her high school career,” facing “transgender athletes 24 times in that period, in high-level elite races, which are state championships, New England championships.” Mitchell described those events as “really important to her from a recruiting standpoint.” 

Mitchell told CP that Chelsea, who is now running track at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, “has not run up against this issue as of yet” in her collegiate career but expressed concern that “the policy that the NCAA has in place makes that a possibility.” 

Mitchell has a younger daughter, currently in ninth grade, who is also an athlete.

“We’re hoping that she doesn’t have to go through what Chelsea did but it’s certainly a possibility,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell noted that in “every single race, someone isn’t making finals, someone isn’t advancing to the next level of competition, and someone isn’t getting … that championship title, and someone is getting bumped from second and third place. And so, it’s a ripple effect and it affects a lot of girls, not just Chelsea.” 

Holcomb agreed: “I think the public needs to keep in mind that it only takes one biologically male athlete to take the championship title and it only takes three to push girls off of the podium entirely.”

“So, this is a big deal and it does matter and it has massive ramifications for young women as they compete, both in high school and college,” the attorney stated. 

Next Steps: “As long as it takes”

A federal judge in Connecticut tossed the lawsuit filed by Mitchell and three other Connecticut athletes, concluding that “the request for an injunction enjoining enforcement of the CIAC policy is now moot.”

The judge ruled that the case is moot because the transgender athletes the girls competed against have since graduated and “there is no indication that Smith and Nicoletti will encounter competition by a transgender student in a CIAC-sponsored event next season.” 

The Alliance Defending Freedom announced its intention to appeal the ruling to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. 

“We look forward to taking the case upon appeal and making … the argument to the court that the case is not moot for the reason that each one of the girls has suffered past injuries specifically as to different placements and recognition and so forth,” Holcomb stressed. “That … can be remedied. These are past injuries that the court can fix and can direct the CIAC to fix. So that stops the case from being moot.” 

Holcomb also weighed in on the law firm’s plans if the Second Circuit upholds the district court judge’s decision.

“As far as whether or not this case makes it to the U.S. Supreme Court, I would say that I hope it doesn’t need to. I would hope that we’re able to get a policy change quickly so that young women in the state of Connecticut are protected and can compete on a fair and level playing field. … If that’s what’s necessary, then we’ll certainly pursue this as long as it takes.”

With their college careers coming to a close, both Saltz and Tanne want to keep running as a vital part of their lives even though they do not plan on pursuing the sport professionally. Characterizing running as “something I love,” Saltz said that “it’s not anything that I plan on just stopping right when I’m done with college.” Stating that she “definitely wants to continue running,” Tanne expressed a desire to serve as a coach when she is older, possibly at the high school level.

Additionally, both women have emphasized that their opposition to allowing trans-identified males to compete in women’s sports does not result from any ill will toward transgender people. 

At CPAC, Saltz told the audience that “there’s no part of me that doesn’t want to be inclusive.”

“I’m looking for proposed solutions that would create inclusion for everybody, but not at the exclusion of biological women,” she stated.

“People don’t realize that by being inclusive in that sense, it is exclusionary to people like me. We don’t want men’s and coed sports; we want men’s and women’s sports.” 

Tanne told CP that her concern about competing against a biological male “was nothing against the transgender athlete or their choices.”  She argued that people on both sides of this debate should remain civil.

“I’ve had family members who haven’t completely agreed on the situation, and we’ve been able to just talk about our opinions and just agree to disagree,” Tanne said. “And I think that that’s the way it should be. I don’t feel like friendships should be ruined just based off of disagreements.”

“If you have something you’re passionate about, then you should fight for it and not tear other people down just because you disagree,” she concluded. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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