Karine Jean Pierre shuts down ‘irresponsible’ trans sport question at White House press conference

Karine Jean-Pierre at a white house briefing

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre shut down questions about trans athletes during a press conference which she claimed framed competitors as “dangerous”. 

On Tuesday (14 June) Jean-Pierre was questioned over the debate surrounding trans women being allowed to take part in women’s sports, both non-competitively and competitively, following a tweet by Republican Tommy Tuberville. 

The Alabama senator called “biological males” taking part in women’s sports “unsafe, unfair, and wrong”. 

During a press conference a journalist cited this tweet and asked Jean-Pierre, in reference to the Biden administration’s proposals to update Title IX, if the White House had any “worry about the physical safety of females directly competing against males in sports?” 

Title IX is a 50-year old civil rights law which prohibits discrimination in schools based on sex and which the White House said in April it planned to update, to forbid blanket bans on trans student-athletes. 

However, under the proposals, colleges and high schools would be able to “justify” barring trans students from playing sports in certain cases, such as on educational grounds including “fairness in competition”. 

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Jean-Pierre called the situation a “complicated issue”. 

“The Department of Education proposed a rule that gives schools the flexibility to establish their own athletic policies while establishing guardrails to prevent discrimination against transgender kids,” she said.  

“And so I also want to make clear that this is a proposed rule and members of the public have the ability to provide comment as part of the rulemaking process.” 

The journalist probed the press secretary further, citing concerns by parents who may have daughters and “worry about their daughters safety” if they compete against a trans woman. 

Jean-Pierre was quick to shut down the question, stating she needed to “call it out” as it alludes to the idea “transgender kids are dangerous”.

“You’re saying that their safety is at risk. You’re you’re you’re laying out a broad, kind of, broad example or explanation of what could potentially happen […] that is dangerous. 

“That is a dangerous thing to say, that essentially transgender kids […] are dangerous. 

“And so that’s something that I have to call out and that is irresponsible.”

At a previous press briefing in April Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration recognised the week had been one of the “worst” for anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the US.  

More than 20 states across the US have already implemented restrictions on trans pupils taking part in sports, alongside other sweeping anti-LGBTQ+ laws that target trans and queer students including healthcare, access to bathrooms and use of affirming pronouns. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) states there have been 491 anti-LGBTQ+ bills put forth in America so far in 2023 alone, with just three states not having tabled any anti-queer legislation.  

“LGBTQI+ kids are resilient, they are fierce, they fight back,” she said in a statement, “They’re not going anywhere. And we have their back. This administration has their back. 

“We are so proud of the kids across this country who have organised protests and school walkouts to tell the politicians in their states to stop this legislative bullying.” 

She added: “I know that these political attacks can really take a toll on people’s mental health. So I want to say directly to LGBTQI+ kids, you are loved just as you are, just the way you are.”

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