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Does Title IX protect the LGBTQ+ community?

By Carley Crain

According to the official definition of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that was enacted as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 

But who does this really include and impact? In what ways does Title IX help or hurt the LGBTQ+ community?

President Joe Biden announced changes to Title IX federal regulations on the 50th Anniversary of the bill in June. Among the biggest changes made to the bill, the definition of “sex discrimination” was expanded to include gender identity and sexual orientation. 

The new announcement also states that “schools cannot prevent a student from participating in a [school’s] education program or activity consistent with their gender identity.” While these changes are considered a massive victory for LGBTQIA+ students, one looming question remains: What about transgender individuals and their participation in athletics? 

Eighteen states have banned transgender students from participating in sports that align with their gender identity. In the state of Massachusetts, however, transgender athletes are allowed to compete on the team that makes them feel the most comfortable in accordance with their gender identity, regardless of medical interventions. 

When it comes to different governing bodies in sports, rules surrounding transgender athletes vary, which makes Title IX regulations complicated. However, if an institution receives federal funding from the government, and it is not in compliance with Title IX, the institution’s federal funding could be cut, including funding for student loans. 

However, throughout the 50 years of Title IX, not one institution has been stripped of federal funding, even though most universities today are not in compliance with Title IX, according to NBC Sports. Within the NCAA, 86 percent of institutions are not offering proportional opportunities in alignment with their enrollment. 

“I think it is about uncovering that invisible illegal rug that has been draped over people who do have rights, or they say they have rights, but you can still do things like that,” said Lily Gould, a member of the track and field team at Springfield College. “And it goes beyond Title IX. Specific legislative bodies now have powers over schools.”

While Title IX’s main two focuses are equality and access to opportunities, women hold much fewer head coach positions in 2022 than they did pre-Title IX. According to NBC Sports; “Before Title IX was passed in 1972, 90% of women’s collegiate teams were coached by women. These days, that number is closer to 41%.”

As a student who is part of the LGBTQ+ community, Gould feels that despite their potential interest in exploring hormonal therapy, they must wait until after graduation to start that journey. The rigorous process and demands from the NCAA and others have halted Gould’s choice to explore hormonal therapy. 

Gould did however help implement pronouns on athletic rosters at Springfield to help make everyone feel comfortable.

“I definitely do not look the same as I did freshman year, ” Gould said. “I came here as a Cis woman playing a women’s sport, and now I am not a woman. I identify as trans-masculine playing a women’s sport.”

To them, Title IX is bigger than just a “women’s issue.” The law is intended to protect everyone equally no matter who they are but has historically been framed as primarily a women’s problem.

“Being Queer, rights were never written in for us, unless it was marriage equality,” Gould said. “But specifically for me, not being a Cis person, we have women’s rights, but they aren’t always inclusive of everyone who has a vagina. With Title IX there is definitely an equity part of it, but there is also a lens of it encouraging Cis-normativity.”

New protections for sexual assault survivors were included as well. In the past, schools were only required to investigate complaints that they deemed credible through “clear and convincing evidence.” Schools and universities are now not allowed to threaten or intimidate survivors or anyone who makes a formal complaint. 

Pregnant students, employees, or staff members are also now granted more protections under the new additions to Title IX. Schools and employers have to provide reasonable modifications for individuals who either are pregnant or those dealing with symptoms related to childbirth, which includes spaces for lactating. 

When it comes to formal Title IX complaints, the “preponderance of evidence” standard of proof method is now mandatory for all universities. Essentially, this means taking a “more likely than not” approach when listening to survivors. 

While Title IX has made significant progress over the past 50 years, the law continues to evolve and individuals deemed beneficiaries of Title IX continue to fight for equal rights. 

Photo: Springfield College


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