Title IX officially turns 50 on June 23. Congress passed the landmark piece of legislation in 1972 behind the efforts of lead author and sponsor Rep. Patsy Mink, the first Asian American woman to serve in Congress. The law prohibits sex-based discrimination in all education programs and activities that receive federal funding and mandates that they actively protect students and employees. To this day, Title IX continues to be one of the strongest deterrents of discrimination against women.
Nonetheless, debates over Title IX are as active as ever. In 2022, they take the form of political assaults on transgender people, with a particular focus on trans athletes. Throughout the country, lawmakers are passing and promoting legislation that seeks to ban trans children from participating in sports, using the implication that their mere presence is unfair to women to fear monger and catalyze support. For example, Ohio Republicans recently passed the “Save Women’s Sports Act” that not only bans trans girls and women from competing in high school and college sports, but also includes a mandatory “verification process” to check the genitals of athletes suspected of being trans.
Lest we think this is just a matter facing other states. This past spring, the Willamette Week asked a slate of Oregon gubernatorial candidates whether they support a Utah bill that bans trans girls from playing in girls sports and an alarming number not only supported it, but did so using very familiar dog whistles and anti-trans rhetoric that lawmakers throughout the country have been utilizing to demonize children who just want to play sports.
Despite the fact that the United States Department of Education has explicitly asserted that Title IX protects trans athletes, the passage and promotion of these horrifying laws are only becoming increasingly more common. With the midterm elections approaching, we can only expect the political assault to get worse. Furthermore, there are clear connections between these anti-trans campaigns, efforts to silence gun control, attempts to restrict voting rights, attacks on critical race theory and the blatant push to provide cover for events like Charlottesville and Jan. 6. The same pundits, politicians and activists are applying pressure on all these fronts in the hopes that we will burnout and back down.
Celebrating the legacy of Title IX means more than just celebrating. We are very much in the midst of a fight and institutions like the University of Oregon play a major role in this battle. When the aforementioned individuals and institutions use their considerable resources and platforms to attack trans women and girls while also spreading misinformation throughout the country about Title IX, which is still very much under attack for its protections of women as well, we have an obligation, both by law and to the moral arc of justice, to use our influence to push back.
We refuse to let members of our campus community and larger society be pitted against each other for people’s cynical political interests. As a university, we will continue to protect all students and employees under the direction of Title IX and promote the spirit of the law to create a better campus environment for all students.The UO’s IDEAL (Inclusion, Diversity, Evaluation, Achievement, and Leadership) framework seeks to promote equity and justice throughout all aspects of campus life. As attacks on Title IX protections increase, we will respond by continuing to educate our campus community and the