Chelsea Mitchell, a 20-year-old athlete from Connecticut, is taking a stand for the fairness and integrity of women’s sports. Frustrated by a Connecticut policy that permits transgender athletes to compete in girls’ sports, Mitchell has decided to challenge this policy in court.
Joining forces with fellow Connecticut residents Selina Soule, Ashley Nicoletti, and Alanna Smith, all former high school track athletes, Mitchell’s suit intends to overturn the policy that allows biological males to compete based on their supposed-gender identity. Mitchell aims to give voice to her own experience and hopes to prevent other girls from facing similar challenges.
Mitchell discovered her passion and talent for running when she set two school records in her first meet as a freshman at Canton High School in 2016. From then on, she continued to improve and dedicated herself to achieving long-term goals in track. Her aspirations included winning a state championship and pursuing a college career in track.
However, throughout her high school career, she suffered more than 20 losses due to the Connecticut policy that allowed transgender athletes to participate in girls’ sports. Fueled by a sense of injustice and a belief in the importance of biological fairness, Mitchell is determined to fight for the rights of female athletes.
Chelsea Mitchell’s frustration began when she encountered a transgender athlete in her first statewide competition, an experience she had never anticipated. She felt that the biological male competitor had a significant advantage, which ultimately affected her qualification for the next round. Throughout her high school years, Mitchell found herself regularly racing against two biologically male athletes who consistently outperformed biologically female track stars. This had a profound impact on the opportunities available to other girls, as the two male athletes claimed 15 state championships, directly affecting 85 girls in the races. Mitchell herself lost out on multiple awards and championships.
In her junior year, Mitchell filed a Title IX complaint anonymously due to concerns about potential repercussions on her college recruitment prospects. However, by her senior year, she reached a tipping point and decided to come forward, joining forces with Selina Soule and Alanna Smith to file a lawsuit against the state’s policies. Despite hoping for support from coaches and administrators, she found it necessary to take action to address the unfairness she had experienced.
Currently, Mitchell is a college senior who still runs track, but says that she’ll never know how the losses in her record impacted her in terms of potential school recruitment and scholarship opportunities.
“When colleges looked at me, they didn’t see a winner. They saw a second or third-place,” she said in an exclusive interview with the New York Post. “I wasn’t a first-place finisher, and I think that’s what really hurt me.”
The rehearing of Chelsea Mitchell’s argument is scheduled to take place on June 6 before the full Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City. This comes after a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit ruled against her argument in December. Chelsea’s lawyer, Matt Sharp of Alliance Defending Freedom, expressed hope that the court will declare the Connecticut policy as a violation of Title IX. They are seeking recognition for the harm caused to Chelsea and the other athletes, as well as the restoration of their hard-earned records and credits.
In their filing with the Second Circuit, the athletes are requesting that the court take action to update their athletic records, accurately reflecting the titles and rankings they would have achieved if transgender athletes had not been allowed to compete against them. The filing emphasizes that courts commonly acknowledge the ongoing interest of student athletes in upholding the records they have rightfully earned. Chelsea Mitchell believes that her legal battle holds immense significance, particularly in light of similar stories emerging throughout the country.
In a recent incident, two transgender athletes decided not to participate in a California high school women’s preliminary track and field state championship due to concerns over public backlash. Consequently, two biological female runners who would have otherwise qualified were unable to compete.
Despite the prolonged duration of her legal battle which has been ongoing since 2020, Mitchell remains hopeful and observes a growing coalition rallying around her cause.
“We were the first girls to speak out about this issue, but now there are so many more girls speaking out about their own experiences and standing up with us,” she said. “The more of us there are, the easier it gets.”