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50 years later, how Title IX protects transgender athletes in Washington

Title IX has unleashed opportunities for girls across the country. It also protects other groups of athletes, many of whom have been subject to discrimination.

June 23 marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a piece of legislation that guarantees students of all genders equal opportunities and access to school sports.

A soccer practice in Bellevue provides a lesson in inclusivity. Here, girls and boys from all walks of life practice together. It's a truly equal playing field.

Title IX is hard at work, but not in the way you might expect.

"I can feel like I've accomplished something while working with others. And it brings me joy," 15-year-old Bobby Jones said.

Title IX protects kids like Bobby.

"I feel like I sort of knew or like I should have known, but I really just wasn't surrounded by a lot of trans kids so I didn't really know that that was a thing," he said.

"All along the way there were signs that Bobby was gender diverse," his mom, Eleanor, said. "In the summer of 2020, he came out because he had found the vocabulary, the language to explain what he had been feeling his whole life and revealed to us that he was transgender."

Credit: KING 5 Sports

Bobby was born a girl and now identifies as a boy. He wants to play boys soccer for a simple reason.

"Because I am a boy," he said.

His mom knows Title IX is on their side.

Credit: KING 5 Sports

"It means that he has the ability to participate fully just like all other children," she said.

The state of Washington not only agrees with this, they've been leaders in the fight thanks to people like Aidan Key.

"The questions being asked today by so many people are questions we were taking a look at back then," he said.

Key is a transgender man himself, and he helped the WIAA become the first state athletic association to create a transgender policy of inclusion 15 years ago.

"What it boils down to is you let the student participate based on their gender identity," he said.

Credit: KING 5 Sports

The legislation recognizes existing federal protections for all students.

"There's this thing called Title IX where the federal government says it should be equitable," Key said. "Title IX protects transgender students."

Yet other states are using Title IX as a weapon and as justification to prevent trans athletes from playing on teams that align with the gender they identify as.

"Are we arm-wrestling over who gets to own Title IX? So much of the concern is that these athletes are going to take away opportunities," Key said.

Bobby said it takes away even more from trans athletes. 

"They're taking away all their support and all the things that could bring them joy," he said.

"They're chasing a problem that doesn't exist at least based on Washington's historical journey," Key added.

The journey for Bobby hasn't been easy, but he's in a place where he's supported and his passions are protected.

"I was allowed to be myself," he said.


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