by Kelsey Bolar
By now, millions know the story of Selina Soule, the high school track star from Connecticut who missed qualifying for the New England track and field regionals by two spots in her top event. Those two spots were taken by biological boys who identify as girls.
Soule, who is wise beyond her years, was well aware that she could face consequences for speaking out about being forced to compete against biological males. But she recognized a greater need.
Little did Soule know that she would do more than speak out. She became one of the most well-known faces of the movement to protect women’s sports from being erased.
A video about her for The Daily Signal, which I produced, attracted millions of views. After it was published, my inbox was flooded with emails from strangers asking how they could support her.
I was encouraged by Soule’s bravery in going public on a difficult issue, but also feared the consequences she’d face for taking such a politically incorrect stance.
If she got blacklisted from colleges and universities, would I have contributed by sharing her story? What about future employment opportunities?
Of course, Soule and her family ultimately bore these responsibilities. But given how out-of-control today’s cancel culture is, I couldn’t help but feel concerned.
So this week, when Soule, who is now 17, told me that she will start at the College of Charleston this fall (depending on COVID-19), I was relieved. There, Soule will continue her career in track—and also her legal fight to preserve women’s sports.
Soule is one of four female track athletes who are challenging a rule established by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference that allows transgender athletes to compete in the category—boys or girls—with which they identify. Her attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom argue that the policy is in direct violation of the federal statute known as Title IX.
Title IX, passed by Congress in 1972, outlaws sex discrimination in all aspects of education, including athletics, for schools that accept federal funds. It mandates that schools treat male and female athletes equally.
The law, passed 48 years ago this week, is an important reminder of what’s at stake.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that the prohibition of sex discrimination in the workplace in another law, Title VII, includes discrimination against transgender employees. Because the language of Title IX closely tracks that of Title VII, the ruling throws into question the legality of sex-specific sports.
“Justice [Samuel] Alito noted in his dissent that this could be a big problem and if the Bostock decision is taken to its natural conclusion, that could have a devastating impact on women’s sports,” Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Christiana Holcomb said.
But, she said, “Title IX is a completely different ballpark than employment law,” and added:
There’s a body of administrative law and regulations that have built up over the course of the last 40-plus years trying to protect women’s sports and ensure that women like Selina have a level playing field. I would say that we’re still very optimistic that ultimately, we will be able to preserve the integrity of women’s sports.
In May, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights sided with Soule and her fellow track athletes. The office found that the Connecticut athletic conference’s policy allowing males who identify as female to compete against girls disadvantages female athletes, denies them equal athletic opportunities, and violates federal law.
Soule told me that it was “certainly encouraging to our cause that the federal government has sided with us,” but she hopes for a similar outcome in the federal lawsuit because the Department of Education’s ruling is not binding.
While she waits for the legal battle to play out, Soule is confronting her personal battles with those who disagree with her.
In-person interactions have “all been people voicing their support for me,” she told me. But online, she has “gotten a lot of hate through social media.”
Online backlash doesn’t bother her so much when it’s from strangers. “They’re just some person that’s hiding behind a phone screen,” she said.
Once in a while, however, she’ll read something from a close friend.
“That hits a little harder,” Soule said.
But when she sees friends bash her on social media instead of engaging in an in-person conversation, Soule said, she realizes “they weren’t really a true friend.”
Plus, Soule said, she’s learned that “there are a lot more people in support of us than I realized, and even people that have no affiliation with sports.”
Because of the overwhelming support she has received, Soule encourages other girls who want to return fairness to women’s sports to consider taking a stand.
“Just do it,” she said, “because if you’re speaking out and you’re speaking out respectfully and politely, then no college or no school or whatever business can really be mad at you.”
Let’s hope she’s right, because if biological males continue competing in girls and women’s sports, Selina Soule’s story could become the norm.
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Kelsey Bolar is a senior writer and producer at The Daily Signal and a senior policy analyst at Independent Women’s Forum.
Photo “Seline Soule” by Daily Signal.