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LGBTQ+ groups fight over Trans Athletes competing is losing ground

Public opinion overwhelmingly supportive of the Equality Act is clearly skeptical of a one size fits all of all sports everywhere

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From left, Lia Thomas, Caitlyn Jenner and Michael Phelps. (Washington Blade photo montage)

WASHINGTON – In the wake of the NCAA changing its policies regarding transgender athletes and state legislatures advancing new legislation against trans inclusion in school sports, LGBTQ advocates continue the fight to ensure athletes can compete consistent with their gender identity, although they may be losing the battle.

As public polling has demonstrated, transgender athletes competing in sports — especially trans women in women’s sports — remains unpopular even among pro-transgender people. Key figures have emerged in recent days opposing transgender inclusion amid the focus on Lia Thomas, a recently transitioned swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania who has been smashing records in women’s aquatics.

Nonetheless, LGBTQ advocates charged with fighting for transgender rights are continuing the efforts. After a coalition of LGBTQ advocates sent a letter to the NCAA urging the organization to include a non-discrimination provision in its updated constitution, the Human Rights Campaign condemned the organization for refusing to keep the language, which appears to have the effect of allowing the sports division to decline to allow transgender athletes to compete consistent with their gender identity, and sent an action alert to supporters.

Joni Madison, interim president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement the NCAA “needs to show us their playbook for protecting LGBTQ+ and specifically transgender athletes from discrimination” as state legislatures advance legislation against transgender kids in sports.

“The NCAA has so far proven to be an unreliable ally to LGBTQ+ athletes across the country who depend upon the organization to protect them from discrimination and now they owe these athletes answers,” Madison said.

Instead of reaffirming non-discrimination protections, the NCAA announced a change in policy that goes in different directions but appears aimed at limiting participation of transgender women without taking full responsibility for it. On one hand, the NCAA delegates to the bodies governing individual sports the policies for transgender participation, but on the other hand requires transgender women to document having limited testosterone levels over a certain period of time.

The fight now continues in state legislatures as sports bills are among the latest crop of measures seeking to limit access for transgender people. After South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem made a push for legislation against transgender kids in sports at the start of the year, the state legislature responded by advancing such a measure. On Wednesday, a South Dakota House committee favorably reported out legislation already approved by wide margins in the Senate that would make biological sex the standard for sports in an attempt to limit transgender participation.

Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project, said in a statement upon the committee vote the legislation “has nothing to do with fairness — and everything to do with South Dakota politicians using transgender youth as pawns on a political chessboard.

“Proponents of this blanket ban are hard-pressed to find examples of transgender students making South Dakota sports less fair or safe,” Ames said. “Research from The Trevor Project makes clear that many already opt out of sports due to fear of bullying and discrimination.”

Although the issue of transgender women in sports has emerged in recent years as conservative activists found a way to challenge LGBTQ rights in a way that was palatable to the public, the fervor peaked as Thomas made headlines for breaking records in the pool.

After having previously competed in men’s aquatics, Thomas — after she transitioned — began competing in women’s events and was beating her competitors by wide margins. In one event in December, Thomas came in first in the 1,650-yard freestyle and 38 seconds ahead of her closest competitor. The NCAA rules would appear to have the effect of barring Thomas from further competition.

Public polling, which has shown strong support for LGBTQ rights in general, continues to show the sentiment is against transgender women competing in sports, although the outcome of the poll can change considerably depending on the wording of the question. One Gallup poll last year found only 34 percent of those surveyed supported transgender athletes participating on teams consistent with their gender identity, while 62 percent said transgender people should have to compete with other athletes of their gender designated at birth.

One LGBTQ strategist, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, said the time may have come for LGBTQ advocates to admit a fait accompli if they want to seek broader civil rights protections in employment, housing and public accommodations with the Equality Act or other federal legislation.

“Advocates should just admit this is a very different issue than a trans person applying for a job or finding an apartment,” the strategist said. “Equality principles differ by situation — that’s why we have separate men’s and women’s sports in the first place. The same public opinion overwhelmingly supportive of the Equality Act is also clearly skeptical of a one size fits all federalization of all sports everywhere.”

Adding fuel to the fire are recent comments from key figures in athletics.

Caitlyn Jenner, who before she transitioned was an Olympic champion in the 1970s, has been among the more prominent voices to speak out against transgender women in sports and said on a recent appearance on Fox News it represents “a woke world gone wild.”

Jenner, who came out against transgender participation in sports during her unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign last year in the California recall election, said the NCAA “just kicked the can down the road” on the transgender sports issue and had choice words for Thomas.

“When you do transition and you do go through this, you have to take responsibility and you have to have integrity,” Jenner said. “I don’t know why she’s doing this.”

Michael Phelps, the decorated Olympic swimmer, also declined to support transgender athletes fully when asked about the issue during an interview on CNN, bringing up doping in sports in comparison.

“I don’t know what it looks like in the future,” Phelps said. “It’s hard. It’s very complicated and this is my sport, this has been my sport my whole entire career, and honestly the one thing I would love is everybody being able to compete on an even playing field.”

“I’m deeply troubled by what appears to be a devolving level of active, effective, committed, and equitable support for gender diverse student-athletes within the NCAA’s leadership”

To be sure, advocates for allowing transgender people to compete in sports consistent with their gender identity also have their supporters in the sports world, including tennis legend Billie Jean King. On Monday, Dorian Rhea Debussy, who’s non-binary and one of 54 facilitators in the NCAA Division III LGBTQ OneTeam program, resigned in protest over recent NCAA actions.

“I’m deeply troubled by what appears to be a devolving level of active, effective, committed, and equitable support for gender diverse student-athletes within the NCAA’s leadership,” Debussy said. “As a non-binary, trans-feminine person, I can no longer, in good conscience, maintain my affiliation with the NCAA.”

Arguably, schools complying with the new NCAA policy and states enacting anti-transgender laws would be violating Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County finding anti-transgender discrimination is a form of sex discrimination.

One federal court last year blocked a West Virginia state law against transgender participation in sports on that legal basis. No litigation, however, appears to be in the works at this time challenging colleges or the NCAA policy.

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Carrying a Pride flag- protester interrupts World Cup game

Qatar’s laws against gay sex and treatment of LGBTQ people were flashpoints in the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East

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Screenshot of news coverage at the World Cup 2022 games from Al Jazeera

LUSAIL, Qatar – During a World Cup match between Portugal and Uruguay Monday, a lone protester ran across the field waving a LGBTQ+ Pride flag moments after the second half kickoff.

Video and still images show the man wearing a blue T-shirt emblazed with the Superman symbol and the phrase “SAVE UKRAINE” on the front and “RESPECT FOR IRANIAN WOMAN” on the back.

Screenshot of news coverage at the World Cup 2022 games from Al Jazeera

Qatari security personnel chased him down and then frog marched him off the playing field. Israeli Public Radio correspondent Amichai Stein tweeted video clips of the incident:

FIFA had no immediate comment on the incident the Associated Press noted reporting that in the first week of the tournament in Qatar, seven European teams lost the battle to wear multi-colored “One Love” armbands during World Cup matches. Fans also complained they weren’t allowed to bring items with rainbow colors, a symbol of LGBTQ rights, into the stadiums of the conservative Islamic emirate.

Qatar’s laws against gay sex and treatment of LGBTQ people were flashpoints in the run-up to the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East. Qatar has said everyone was welcome, including LGBTQ fans, but that visitors should respect the nation’s culture.

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Blinken criticizes FIFA over threat to fine World Cup team captains with ‘one love’ armbands

Qatar criminalizes homosexuality by death

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

DOHA, Qatar — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday criticized FIFA over its threat to sanction European soccer teams if their captains wore “one love” armbands during the 2022 World Cup.

“It’s always concerning from my perspective when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression. It’s especially so when the expression is for diversity and for inclusion,” Blinken told reporters during a press conference with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Doha, the Qatari capital. “And in my judgment, at least, no one on a football pitch should be forced to choose between supporting these values and playing for their team.”

Seven European soccer teams on Monday announced their captains will not wear LGBTQ+ and intersex armbands during the 2022 World Cup after FIFA threatened to sanction them.

The captains of Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales had planned to wear the armbands in support of the LGBTQ+ and intersex community during the World Cup. The teams on Monday in a joint statement said they would not wear the armbands because FIFA had threatened to sanction them if their captains did.

The World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday.

Qatar is among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death. A report that Human Rights Watch published last month noted several cases of “severe and repeated beatings” and “sexual harassment” of LGBTQ+ and intersex people while in police custody from 2019 and September 2022. 

A State Department official last week acknowledged to the Washington Blade that the U.S. raised LGBTQ+ and intersex rights with the Qatari government ahead of the World Cup.

The U.S. men’s soccer team while in Qatar will have a redesigned logo with the Pride flag in its badge. Blinken attended their match against Wales on Monday.

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European soccer teams won’t wear ‘one love’ armbands after FIFA sanctions threat

World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday

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Iran plays England during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Nov. 21, 2022. (Screenshot via FS1)

DOHA, Qatar — Seven European soccer teams on Monday announced their captains will not wear LGBTQ+ and intersex armbands during the 2022 World Cup after FIFA threatened to sanction them.

The captains of Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales planned to wear “one love” armbands during the World Cup. The teams in a joint statement said FIFA threatened to sanction them if their captains wore them.

“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play,” read the statement. “We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision, which we believe is unprecedented.”

“As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings,” added the statement.

The World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday.

Qatar is among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death.

Human Rights Watch last month published a report that noted “arbitrary” arrests of LGBTQ+ and intersex people between 2019 and September 2022 and several cases of “severe and repeated beatings” and “sexual harassment in police custody” during the aforementioned period. World Cup Ambassador Khalid Salman earlier this month described homosexuality as “damage in the mind” during an interview with a German television station.

Peter Tatchell, a British activist, on Oct. 25 protested the country’s LGBTQ+ and intersex rights record while standing outside the National Museum of Qatar in Doha, the country’s capital. A State Department official on Nov. 18 acknowledged to the Washington Blade that the U.S. raised LGBTQ+ and intersex rights with the Qatari government ahead of the World Cup.

The U.S. men’s soccer team while in Qatar will have a redesigned logo with the Pride flag in its badge. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will attend their match against Wales on Monday.

England played Iran on Monday. The Netherlands on Monday will play Senegal.

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Far right angry U.S. Soccer honors LGBTQ+ people for World Cup

The logo is being used to protest Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Same-sex relationships are criminalized in the country

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USA Soccer team media area Qatar (Screenshot/YouTube Sky News Global)

CHICAGO – The decision to support the global LGBTQ+ community by the U.S. Men’s soccer team with a redesigned logo incorporating the LGBTQ+ Pride flag to its badge which will be seen at the USA Soccer team’s hotel, media areas and parties throughout the Qatar World Cup, has angered far-right homophobic groups in the U.S.

The logo is being used to protest Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Same-sex relationships are criminalized in the country with up to seven years in jail, while queer Muslim men, under Sharia law, can be punished with death.

The World Cup begins on Sunday on November 20 and the US team is slotted to play against the team from Wales on Monday the 21st.

“Our rainbow badge has an important and consistent role in the identity of US Soccer,” A US Soccer spokesperson said. “As part of our approach for any match or event, we include rainbow branding to support and embrace the LGBTQ community, as well as to promote a spirit of inclusiveness and welcoming to all fans across the globe.”

Media Matters reported that Daily Wire Host and transphobic/homophobic host Matt Walsh in a rant on his daily show said:

“The corporate gay pride stuff is just sheep’s blood on the door signaling that they are the chosen people so the angel of cancellation passes them over. But as far as symbolism goes, I think it is appropriate that they should change the colors of the American flag with the colors of the LGBT flag.

“I mean, it’s horrendous, it’s traitorous, it’s treasonous — if I was in charge of the country, they wouldn’t be allowed back into the country — but it’s also appropriate.

“Because the LGBT nation, LGBTistan we may call it, is, after all, the country that corporate America as well as the United States government seeks to represent.

“Now some people predict that we will eventually in the future become two countries, there’s going to be some civil war. But the point is we’re already two countries. There’s one that salutes the Pride flag and despises the American flag, and one that salutes the American flag and has no use for the Pride flag.

“At this point, it’s only a matter of making the split official, I suppose. Something that we will probably never do, but we should.” 

During a press conference Gregg Berhalter, head coach of the US men’s soccer team, said: “I think that when we are on the world stage and [we’re in] Qatar, it’s important to bring awareness to these issues, and that’s what Be the Change is about.”

Berhalter was referring to the campaign launched in November 2020 following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin, to put a spotlight on human rights abuses and social injustice.

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No disputing winner: Jacob Caswell is first in nonbinary category

All three of the top nonbinary finishers are a part of Front Runners New York, a group for runners who are LGBTQ

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Jacob Caswell/Instagram

NEW YORK – For the first time in the history of the six major marathons around the world, organizers of the New York City Marathon awarded cash prizes to the top nonbinary runners. 

Jacob Caswell, 25, of New York City, finished first in their category on Sunday, earning $5,000, for running the 26.2 mile race in 2:45:12. 

“None of this would be possible without so many people putting in amazing work so that I and all future runners have a more inclusive space to run in,” Caswell posted on Instagram. “A major thank you to everyone!”

This was Caswell’s first time running the NYC Marathon, but they’ve been training by competing in a half-marathon in Brooklyn—winning the nonbinary category—and as well as the New York Road Runners 10K in Queens this past June. 

“Being able to not even win but just compete as yourself, it’s just been freeing,” Caswell told The New York Times.

In the NYC Marathon, they finished 172nd overall and 24 and a half minute ahead of this year’s second place nonbinary runner, Zackary Harris of New York City. Last year, Harris, 27, finished first in the nonbinary category, but at that time there were no cash prizes. Justin Solle, 28, also of New York, finished third of the 45 nonbinary runners. 

While most of that category’s runners hail from the Greater New York metropolitan area, there were also nonbinary runners from Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Washington State and even from Germany. 

This race was only the second time a World Marathon Major race registered nonbinary competitors. Marathon organizers in Boston, Chicago, London and Berlin followed New York’s lead; Only the Tokyo Marathon has not, according to NBC News.

The Times reported the Philadelphia Distance Run became the first organization to offer equal prize money to nonbinary athletes in September.

Photo by Da Ping Luo for NYRR

All three of the top nonbinary finishers are a part of Front Runners New York, a group for runners who are LGBTQ. According to The Times, Front Runners New York is working with groups like New York City Runs to offer more opportunities for nonbinary, trans and trans nonbinary runners. 

“Nonbinary runners have been here this whole time,” Harris told the newspaper. “We’ve been forced to run in categories that don’t match our gender identities, and now we’re seeing a shift in sports to actually recognize us.”

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Black player makes history: He’s Out at Hampton University

HU’s student body is predominately Black and female with over 83% of students from out-of-state or from other countries

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Byron Perkins (Los Angeles Blade/Instagram)

HAMPTON, Va. – In an exclusive interview with Cyd Ziegler of OutSports magazine, a football athlete at Hampton University, a private, historically Black, research university spoke about his coming Out as the first openly gay athlete at the university.

In his interview, Byron Perkins, a defensive back, said; “Especially at an HU, young Black gay men need an outlet. They need a support system. There hasn’t been an out gay football athlete at an HU. I want to end the stigma of what people think. I want people to know they can be themselves.”  

HU’s student body is predominately Black and female with over 83% of students from out-of-state or from other countries. The football team, the Hampton Pirates, compete in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision.

Perkins, who is a junior, had transferred to HU from Purdue University and according to his stats has played two seasons with the HU Pirates. So far this season he has been credited with 16 tackles and two deflected passes. The Pirates current season standing overall is 4-2.

Speaking with OutSports Perkins outlined his views on coming Out and his growth as a person, a gay Black male in particular as he charts a new course in his life.

“I’ve been self-reflective and trying to prioritize what makes me happy and makes me feel alive,” Perkins said. “I thought it could be just football and school, but there was a component missing. And recently I’ve been able to figure out that I haven’t been fully happy because everyone didn’t know who I was. Authenticity is everything to me.”

Perkins also posted to Instagram revealing his sexual orientation, “I have come to understand that life is precious and I could be gone at any moment, therefore, I will no longer be living a lie. No one should have to live a life crippled by what society thinks.”

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