If only it was as simple as the sound of a starting gun, a flash from the starting blocks and a dash to the finish. Then it would be easy.
The results of the CIAC State Open track and field championships would show that Terry Miller won the 100-meter dash in a meet record time of 11.72 seconds.
The results would show that Miller, the sophomore from Bulkeley High School in Hartford, won the 200-meter dash in a meet record time of 24.17 seconds.
Only the story is not easy. The story remains as one of the most difficult and complex in state athletic history.
To deny a transgender athlete the chance to compete is wrong in every way. To deny a teenage transgender athlete the opportunity to compete sends the kind of message that lowers the standards of humanity. Those wrestling with gender and sexual identity at this delicate age are especially prone to drug use and suicide.
No sport is worth ruining lives. None.
Yet to have watched Cromwell’s Andraya Yearwood, before any sort of hormonal treatment, win the Class M sprint titles last year left one convinced that the competitive field in the state championships was not even.
And to watch Miller, who competed on the boys team during the winter indoor season, dominate the sprints Monday as a girl, left one convinced the competitive field remained uneven.
“A lot of people have asked, can you run a separate race, can you put an asterisk next to their name, do something that shows there is a standard that is different from that?” said CIAC executive director Karissa Niehoff. “When you get into that playing out, you have got civil rights issues.
“Then within the same gender, you are taking one population of the gender and you’re separating them and creating another class. That’s what Title IX speaks to. That’s what Office of Civil Rights guidelines speak to. You cannot discriminate based on gender. And in our case in Connecticut, gender is gender identity.”
Yet what about the two girls who worked for years who got knocked out of the finals by Miller and Yearwood? And what about the two girls who finished seventh and eighth in the finals who were denied a chance to compete in the New England championships?
“We do feel for them,” Niehoff said. “Fully agree. It doesn’t feel good. The optic isn’t good. But we really do have to look at the bigger issues that speak to civil rights and the fact this is high school sports.”
The 100 wasn’t a race. It was a blowout. The 200 was closer, still a record that spanned to 1997 fell. Miller, trying to sweep three events, finished fourth in the 400. Still, it was an overpowering performance that alone put Bulkeley in sixth place in the state.
The team standings were altered, too. Southington won the team title with 35 points, three ahead of Bloomfield. Without the Miller and Yearwood, Bloomfield would have had 34. You spread around Miller’s 25 points and Yearwood’s points and obviously a number of other team standings were altered.
“To be honest, I think it’s great they get a chance to compete and as long as they’re happy, I guess, there’s not that much I can do,” said RHAM’s Bridget Lalonde, who finished third in the 100 behind Miller and Yearwood. “The rules are the rules. The only competition is the clock. You can only run as fast as you can.”
Lalonde had a personal best of 12.29. She also would finish second to Miller in the 200. Some would submit she was the real double-winner.
“Quite honestly, I just focused on me,” said Carly Swierbut of Newtown, who won the 400 in a time of 55.48. “I know how to run this race. I just focused on the lane in front of me and didn’t worry about anybody else.”
Asked if she had any problems competing against transgender athletes, Swierbut said, “Not at all. If you’re good enough to run, you’re good enough to run. If somebody wants to win, they’re going to work their tail off to win. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you are, everybody should have the chance.”
These are entirely gracious words, words that tell you the kids are all right, that the next generation is going to be fine.
Yet, it also doesn’t address the competitive fairness of a biological boy running against girls in a foot race on a given chilly day in June.
Hillhouse coach Gary Moore had told Hearst Connecticut Media last week at the Class M meet that Miller should be able to compete, but the situation “wasn’t fair to the girls.” He also said something should be done to “level the playing field.”
On Monday, Moore said, “I’ve been stopped by at least five coaches (Monday), all of them saying they really liked what I said in the paper. How come other coaches aren’t talking? This is a big issue a lot of coaches have, that we’ve got to do something, but how come you’re not saying anything? I’ve said what I needed to say. I’m getting a little annoyed with the coaches that we haven’t been able to get together and do what’s best for everybody.”
“The rule needs to be changed,” said Simsbury coach Lorenzo Milledge.
States are all over the map on the high school transgender eligibility issue. Ranging from self-identifying in Connecticut to hard-and-fast with what the birth certificate reads in Texas. The NCAA has a rule where transgenders can compete a year after completing treatment.
“The way the law is written, Terry Miller is eligible to compete,” Glastonbury coach Brian Collins said. “I think what a lot of people, myself included, have a problem with is a biological male competing. When they put the state law in effect, my interpretation is it wasn’t made for high school sports. I think it was meant for all people, whether transgender, bisexual, gay, are treated fairly. I totally agree with that, but with sports it’s not a level playing field.
“You’d probably ask the state reps if the law should be changed for sports.”
Collins had a question. If this law is good for high schools, are the colleges also bound by state law over the NCAA rules?
Collins said there has been all sort of talk by coaches throughout the state, but many are not allowed to speak by their administration. Hamden coach Mike Migliore was one of those.
Bianca Stanescu’s daughter Selina Soule of Glastonbury High finished sixth in the 100. She is passionate that the rule is unfair.
“Of course, it should be that way for math and science and chorus,” she said. “Sports are set up for fairness. Biologically male and female are different.”
Stanescu came armed with literature about Title IX and competitive sports and that’s why the NCAA has clear regulations. She said she called state representatives and was told it’s in CIAC’s hands and has the power to set requirements such as hormone therapy or a waiting period and would be in compliance with the state.
“The great majority is being sacrificed for the minority,” Stanescu said.
Niehoff said the CIAC has received emails and phone calls about the policy. The concern, she said, is transgender females competing without medical intervention.
She said there is no process to change.
On this day, there was talk among opponents of starting collective legal action.
We will see.