Photo By: Lena Balk from Unsplash
House Bill 25 was signed into law last Monday by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. The bill will require student athletes who compete in interscholastic competition to play on the sports team that “corresponds with the sex listed on their birth certificate at or near their time of birth.”
The legislation is a step further than the current rules that the University Interscholastic League (UIL) has in place to govern school sports in Texas. Under the UIL rules, a student’s gender is determined by their birth certificate, but they also accept legally-modified birth certificates that may have been changed since an individual’s time of birth to more accurately align with their gender identity.
All that is a very long and convoluted way to say that Texas has just signed legislation that bans transgender children from playing school sports.
I wrote about this issue last year, when the “protect women’s sports,” movement was picking up steam. The movement is spearheaded not by people who are genuinely invested in women’s sports leagues, but by conservative politicians looking for an issue that they can hide their transphobia behind.
This is just another example of conservative politicians latching onto a “buzzworthy” topic in order to push their own agendas and to say the quiet part out loud when it comes to trans people and their rights to have the same opportunities that cisgender people receive.
The supporters of this bill have celebrated it because it “protects” girls in sports. This is based in the false narrative that transgender girls are taking roster spots from cisgender peers and dominating in school sports. This isn’t happening. Despite being asked countless times, legislators could not provide real life examples of this, only hypotheticals. Legislation like this is nothing more than another attack on the lives of transgender people.
Playing sports, especially as a child, can be a massive part of someone’s life. Removing that opportunity for trans kids is something that I find reprehensible. LGBTQ children already struggle with mental health at a higher rate than non-LGBTQ youth. Playing sports has proven mental health benefits.
Additionally, being part of a sports team increases an individuals’ sense of belonging. Indeed, a big part of their human experience is playing sports and connecting with peers through shared activities. This legislation will not only prevent trans children from joining sports teams that align with their gender identity, but it will also remove children from the teams that they’ve already been playing on. There is no doubt in my mind that this legislation will hurt an already vulnerable group of people.
Anecdotally, I also want to say that as someone who has only ever played sports when they were co-ed, the “biological differences” that proponents of this kind of legislation cite were always negligible at both the school and recreational level. The things that the people who propose and support these kinds of laws are fear mongering about don’t exist on a practical level.
These laws also only ever seem to reference girls’ sports. Trans boys are left out of the conversation entirely. If the argument is that trans girls have an inherent advantage over cis ones, then what about boys? There is no conversation about boys, because it doesn’t fit the narrative that’s being spun. The narrative is, “we have to protect cisgender girls,” but the reality is that these people will do whatever it takes to deny trans people their humanity.
There are conversations to be had about trans inclusion policies in sports leagues, there are also conversations to be had about the inherent binary that sports reinforces and whether or not that needs to change as society moves away from an inherent gender binary. These are not the conversations that legislators and their supporters are having, they’re not interested in any kind conversation. What they’re interested in doing is hurting people.