Republican legislators, flanked by accomplished female athletes, unveiled bills to “preserve women’s sports for biological females,” in the words of legislative sponsor state Rep. Barbara Dittrich (R-Oconomowoc).
Dittrich and other women who spoke at the press conference on March 3, 2021, extolled the importance of Title IX, which paved the way for women and girls to participate in sports. They said efforts to allow biologically male transgender athletes to compete in women’s and girls’ sports would roll back the provisions of that historic act, creating a non-level playing field. Among those supporting the Republican bills was Olympic speed skater Bonnie Blair-Cruikshank.
“At my first Olympic games, I had to take a swab test to prove I was a female and still have that card to this day,” Blair-Cruikshank said during the press conference. This is especially close to home having competed against women that were taking performance-enhancing drugs and gaining an advantage over women athletes that were competing with their natural hormonal chemistry.”
Dittrich and others present stressed the importance of athletic competitions to women’s successes.
“Since its passage in my youth, Title IX has paved the way for women to be inspired by the high achievement of other women,” said Dittrich. “Educational and competitive opportunities have been opened up through scholarships and tournaments.”
“Now in a fractured well-meaning attempt at inclusion, women’s achievements have once against been put at great risk of loss,” she said.
Allowing transgender athletes to compete in women’s and girls’ sports is causing biological females to lose “opportunities at titles, records, scholarships and even participation at times,” said Dittrich.
“Ignoring the scientific biological fact that males have higher bone density and greater muscle mass and often greater height” puts women “in physical danger of greater injury in competition,” she added. She said there are no “hormonal levels or guidelines set in order to compete,” although the NCAA “sets the standards that a biological male may participate in female sports after a year of testosterone suppressing drugs.”
Dittrich said that “parents and athletes throughout my legislative district who have devoted countless hours to supporting fair competition and athletic excellence have come to me” and asked for the bills.
Protecting Women in Sports Act
The press conference was held at the beginning of Women’s History Month. There is also a Senate author. It’s called the Protecting Women in Sports Act. The act consists of two bills, one at the K-12 level and one at the collegiate sports level, said Dittrich.
Gov. Tony Evers is likely to veto the bills. “My message to Wisconsin’s transgender kids and students today is simple: I see you. You are welcome, you are wanted, and you belong,” Evers tweeted. The state’s LGBT caucus was critical of the bills, calling them a “blatant attempt to codify discrimination and perpetuate damaging, inaccurate, and deeply offensive stereotypes against trans youth, and discriminate against a group of young people who simply wish to apply their best selves in a sport they are passionate about.” Milwaukee Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa said, “The anti-equality, transphobic legislation proposed by Wisconsin legislative Republicans to ban transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports in college and at every grade level is divisive, hateful and unnecessary.”
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According to the AP, the bills would only allow students to play on teams that match their “biological sex as assigned by a doctor at birth,” unless labeled “coed.” Public and private schools fall under the bills, along with the University of Wisconsin and technical colleges, AP noted.
Wisconsin is one of a string of states considering such measures in the wake of a President Joe Biden executive order that, in the words of AP, “bans discrimination based on gender identity in school sports.”
Republican State Rep. Janel Brandtjen of Menomonee Falls echoed Dittrich’s views on Title IX. “Women’s sports changed my life. My husband and I met competitively swimming, I paid for college by being able to coach,” she said.
She said sports teaches girls and women “to learn how to win, to learn how to lose, to learn how to have sportsmanship.” she said there “is no doubt” she would never have been able to beat any men if they were allowed to compete against her.
“That’s the biology; the reality,” she said.
“Honestly we’re ruining women’s sports forever,” she said. “Why would you compete if you knew you couldn’t win? We want a fair playing field; science is real.”
Juliane Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, recalled how she excelled on the basketball court in high school but came of age shortly before Title IX so scholarship opportunities didn’t exist for her.
“Had some biological male beaten me out of my center position because he had a higher vertical… simply because he was biologically stronger or faster would have been absolutely discouraging to me and disheartening,” she said.
“A level fair playing field, that’s what this bill is about,” she said. “Protecting the progress.
Airiana Lynch, a varsity lacrosse player at Arrowhead High School, also spoke at the press conference in favor of the “Protecting Women in Sports Act” bill, calling it “just.”
A four-time female Ironman competitor and finisher also spoke, insisting, “If women and girl athletes put in head-to-head competition with men and boy athletes, it wouldn’t be a fair competition.”