Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, two teen track and field stars from Connecticut, took home major wins at recent state sprinting tournaments. But their impressive victories on the field are sparking controversy and resentment among other high school athletes, since both Miller and Yearwood are transgender.
According to the Associated Press, both Miller and Yearwood—the only trans high school-age sprinters in the entire state of Connecticut—aren’t strangers to snide comments or pushback from other runners. Critics believe they shouldn’t be allowed to compete against other girls their age because the gender they were assigned at birth gives them an unfair advantage.
According to TransAthlete, Connecticut is one of just 17 states in the U.S. that allows trans teens to compete in K-12 athletics without restrictions or regulations.
One of Yearwood and Miller’s opponents, another teen athlete named Selina Soule, told AP that allowing these girls to compete against cis girls is “demoralizing”: “We all know the outcome of the race before it even starts,” she said. “I fully support and am happy for these athletes for being true to themselves. They should have the right to express themselves in school, but athletics have always had extra rules to keep the competition fair.”
Yearwood, a 17-year-old junior at Cromwell High School, has begun her physical transition. She acknowledges that she might have unique advantages in the sport, such as increased strength. However, she believes her cis competitors bring their own inherent strengths to sprinting, too.
“One high jumper could be taller and have longer legs than another, but the other could have perfect form, and then do better,” Yearwood told AP. “One sprinter could have parents who spend so much money on personal training for their child, which in turn, would cause that child to run faster.”
Yearwood’s coach, Brian Calhoun, supports her fully and says her gender identity has never been an issue among her teammates.
The conversation surrounding trans athletes’ right to compete against cis athletes isn’t new, though recent comments from prominent lesbian tennis champion Martina Navratilova seemed to reignite the debate. In a controversial op-ed for London’s Sunday Times, Navratilova argued that trans athletes inherently have an advantage, and allowing them to compete against their cis counterparts is “insane” and akin to “cheating.”
Navratilova’s comments have already had political ramifications, too: Earlier this week, Republican lawmakers in South Dakota invoked her words to defend a proposed athletics policy that would have discriminated against transgender student athletes. The bill was later voted down.