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The scope and pace of legislative activity targeting transgender individuals is nothing short of a gender panic. From restrictions on medical care to the regulation of library books and the use of pronouns in schools, attacks on the transgender community have reached crisis proportions. A growing number of families with transgender children are being forced to leave their states of residence to keep their children healthy and their families safe and intact. The breadth and pace of these developments is striking. Although the anti-transgender backlash now extends broadly into health and family governance, sport was one of the first settings—the gateway—to ignite the current culture war on transgender youth. At the time that states began enacting bans on transgender girls in girls’ sports in 2020, there were not yet widespread bans on gender-affirming medical care and restrictions on restroom usage for transgender youth. But by the time twenty-some states had passed anti-transgender sports laws circa 2023, a broader legislative backlash was afoot. The sweeping anti-transgender attack that began in sports has now extended into other areas of public and private life, with great cost to the health and well-being of transgender children and their families.

This essay considers the role of sport in this new gender panic and examines how Title IX of the Education Act of 1972, the popular law responsible for the growth of opportunities for girls and women in sports, has been mobilized in service of a broader gender agenda. Far from providing a persuasive justification for the state laws banning transgender girls from girls’ sports, Title IX—properly understood—supports the case for transgender inclusion, not exclusion. Lacking a genuinely substantial connection to the preservation of girls’ and women’s athletic opportunities, state laws excluding transgender girls and women from sports violate the Equal Protection Clause.