CLOVIS, Calif.—Women’s rights advocates held a protest against the California Interscholastic Federation’s (CIF) gender policy on May 27 at a high school competition, even though the two transgender athletes had withdrawn from the race.
The policy or interpretation of the policy would allow transgender athletes who are biological males to attend females’ races in state track and field championships.
Protesters from Women’s Declaration International USA (WDI USA) and Women Are Real displayed banners reading “WomenAreReal.com,” “Protect Female Sports,” and “Speak Up 4 Girls” when the girls’ 1600 meter race began on May 27 at Veterans Memorial Stadium at Buchanan High School in Clovis, California.
WDI USA President Kara Dansky told The Epoch Times the protests are to “take a stand about the importance of protecting sex-based sports and sex-based women’s rights."
Since the two transgender athletes had withdrawn from the competition, Dansky said, “So today, the event was girls only, which was great to see; it was a great event.”
The interview with Dansky was temporarily interrupted by a security guard from the Buchanan High School campus, who said the sidewalks were for free speech while this area was part of the venue.
Dansky tried explaining to the guard that this was not part of the protest. Dansky was wearing a sash with the words “Woman: Adult Human Female” on it during the interview.
Continuing with the interrupted interview at a new location on the street, Dansky said: “We’re living in a period of time where women fighting for women’s rights are told that there’s somehow something wrong with that and that we shouldn’t be allowed to do that.”
She said that women should have the right to hold and express opinions according to the First Amendment.
“We’re very committed to fighting this battle, politically, wherever it takes us,” she said.
The Gender Identity Participation rules enacted by the CIF in 2013 state: “All students should have the opportunity to participate in CIF athletics and/or activities in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity.”
The “consistent” in the rule has been interpreted as “the gender they feel most comfortable with,” said Brian Seymour, the associate executive director of the CIF, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
The rule has brought up the controversial topic of whether it’s fair for biological males to compete in female races. The controversy heated up after transgender swimmer Lia Thomas won an NCAA Division I national championship in 2021.
The group called Women Are Real replied with a photo of protesters and stated: “90% of the women in this photo are registered Dems & over 35% are lesbians. We are not a right wing group.”
Darrell Barclay, a father, attended the event to cheer on his daughter Ily. Barclay said he didn’t know about the issue until he saw the protesters put out signs.
“California is one of the best states for track and field, so you see a lot of really talented kids out of the future compete out there,” he told The Epoch Times.
Barclay was proud of his daughter, who was able to attend the race as a freshman.
He said he didn’t have an opinion on the transgender athletes issue. Then he looked at his daughter and smiled.
“I do have an opinion about my daughter!” he said.
After seeing a family member’s son competing, Visalia resident Eric Green told The Epoch Times there is an “unfair advantage” for transgender athletes.
“It’s not for me to say; it’s for them to kind of come out and decide on what that is, because … being a male, I know I have an advantage over the female, if we [were] to do the same thing,” Green said.
Sanaiya Watkins, a female athlete from Quartz Hill High School in Palmdale, only wanted to comment on the competition. Watkins’s team won 6th place in the 4x100 meter relay competition, and she said three of four members were injured, including herself.
“It’s hard to do, but it pushes us even more; it helps us lower our time and gives us a goal, rather than running in a heat where there’s not much competition,” Watkins said. “So it was a really good opportunity to run with all the fast girls and to just keep up with them.”