'NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Andraya Yearwood hears the comments, usually from adults and usually not to her face.
She shouldn’t be running, they say, not against girls.
Yearwood, a 17-year-old junior at Cromwell High School, is one of two transgender high school sprinters in Connecticut, transitioning to female.
She recently finished second in the 55-meter dash at the state open indoor track championships. The winner, Terry Miller of Bloomfield High, is also transgender and set a girls state indoor record of 6.95 seconds. Yearwood finished in 7.01 seconds and the third-place competitor, who is not transgender, finished in 7.23 seconds.
Miller and Yearwood also topped the 100-meter state championships last year, and Miller won the 300 this season.
Critics say their gender identity amounts to an unfair advantage, expressing a familiar argument in a complex debate for transgender athletes as they break barriers across sports around the world from high school to the pros.
“I have learned a lot about myself and about other people through this transition. I always try to focus most on all of the positive encouragement that I have received from family, friends and supporters,” Yearwood said. “I use the negativity to fuel myself to run faster.”
Connecticut is one of 17 states that allow transgender high school athletes to compete without restrictions, according to Transathlete.com, which tracks state policies in high school sports across the country. Seven states have restrictions that make it difficult for transgender athletes to compete while in school, like requiring athletes to compete under the gender on their birth certificate, or allowing them to participate only after going through sex-reassignment procedures or hormone therapies.
The other states either have no policy or handle the issue on a case-by-case basis.
Yearwood acknowledges she is stronger than many of her cisgender competitors, but says girls who are not transgender may have other advantages.
“One high jumper could be taller and have longer legs than another, but the other could have perfect form, and then do better,” she said. “One sprinter could have parents who spend so much money on personal training for their child, which in turn, would cause that child to run faster.”
Miller, who declined to be interviewed for this story, has said that if she felt a competitor had an unfair advantage, it would simply push her to try to improve.'
Read more: Transgender sprinters finish 1st and 2nd at Connecticut girls indoor track championships
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