Newspaper edits opinion piece on transgender athletes to remove ‘hurtful language’ 

By Kate Scanlon for CNA

Juanje Garrido/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 27, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

A religious liberty law firm says a national newspaper edited a gender description in an opinion piece by one of its clients, attributing the changes made after publication to “hurtful language.”

Chelsea Mitchell, a female track-and-field runner, is one of several athletes represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) who are challenging Connecticut’s transgender sports policy. She had penned a May 22 opinion piece in USA Today arguing that “males have massive physical advantages” over biological female athletes – referring to her lawsuit over having to compete against biological males identifying as transgender females.

Elizabeth Ray, director of media relations for ADF, told CNA that USA Today published Mitchell’s opinion piece on Saturday, May 22. On May 26, however, Mitchell’s words “male runners” – referring to males identifying as transgender females – were amended to “transgender runners.”

An editor’s note was added to her piece, stating: “This column has been updated to reflect USA TODAY’s standards and style guidelines. We regret that hurtful language was used.”

Ray said that the publication did not notify ADF or Mitchell of the changes. She said that ADF has requested the second sentence regarding “hurtful language” in the editor’s note be removed.

A spokesperson for USA Today did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNA on what changes were made and what “hurtful” language was used in the article.

“The editors put words into Chelsea’s mouth without notice and after the piece was published,” Ray said, adding if the newspaper “determined an editor’s note was desired, it could have done so without altering Chelsea’s words.”

“Assigning ‘hurtful’ motives to her at the top of her own opinion piece is an insult,” Ray said. “Chelsea used the term ‘male’ only to refer logically to the biology of the competitors she raced against, which is the primary point of the piece and important for context. There can be no argument that the transgender athletes that she competed against are biologically male.”

Mitchell is part of a legal challenge to a Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference policy allowing transgender students to compete in single-sex athletic events opposite their biological sex.

Beginning in 2017, two males identifying as transgender females competed in girls’ track competitions, ultimately winning 15 state championship titles between them. Four female athletes sued over the state’s policy, claiming that having to compete against biological males was unfair and a violation of Title IX.

“Every time I walk up to the starting line, I try to tell myself that I can overcome the unfair odds — I can win, even though the race is stacked against me,” Mitchell wrote in her piece.

Mitchell did defeat one of the two runners, Terry Miller, in a 2020 state championship 55-meter race, according to the AP.

A federal district court dismissed the girls’ lawsuit last month, but they are appealing the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, ADF announced on Wednesday.

Federal district court judge Robert Chatigny had ruled in April that the two biological male runners who competed with the four girls have since graduated high school, adding that there is “no indication” that a runner identifying as transgender female will be competing in girls’ track events next year. Thus, the request for an injunction in the case was “moot,” he wrote.

“Males will always have inherent physical advantages over comparably talented and trained girls. Those differences are why we have girls’ sports in the first place. Unfortunately, the district court chose to ignore our clients’ demoralizing experiences of losing to male runners, so we have appealed to the 2nd Circuit,” Holcomb stated.

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