Trans Girls’ Participation in School Sports at Risk Amid K-12 Resumption


As children across the United States return to school and begin autumn sports practices, four additional states expect their K-12 schools to exclude transgender females from their girls teams. Before classes resumed, Kansas, North Dakota, and Wyoming enacted new restrictions on transgender athletes. By the end of this month, Missouri will join them, bringing the total number of states with restrictions to 23. Later this month, North Carolina could implement a ban, and Ohio could follow suit in the autumn. Due to federal litigation, a few laws, including those in Arizona and West Virginia, are on pause.

This year’s new restrictions are part of a larger surge of anti-transgender rights legislation sweeping the United States. In some states, Republican legislators have prohibited gender-affirming care for minors, restricted transgender people’s access to school and public restrooms, limited what public schools can teach about gender and sexuality, and prohibited schools from requiring transgender students to use their preferred pronouns. Since 2020, the majority of the sports laws have targeted transgender females. The majority of policies cover less formal intramural competitions organized within a single school’s student body as well as competitions between schools, and some also prohibit transgender males. Nearly everyone believes that other pupils and their guardians may sue schools that do not enforce the restrictions.

Legislators anticipate that a child’s earliest birth certificate will determine which sports teams they are eligible to join. Principals and coaches should serve as enforcers. Jeanne Woodbury, interim executive director of the LGBGT+ rights organization Equality Arizona, stated that these are “uncomfortable conversations.” Everyone is experiencing this process. She added, “For transgender children, life has never been easy, and now they have to contend with this law as well.”

In Oklahoma, where a law has been in effect since 2022, athletes or their parents are required to submit an annual affidavit “acknowledging the biological sex of the student at birth.” If concerns arise about an athlete’s eligibility, Kansas and other states expect school officials to examine the child’s earliest birth certificate. Bill Faflick, executive director of the Kansas State High School Activities Association, stated that rules seminars for administrators and instructors have received his state’s law with a “matter of fact” acceptance.

“It has not been met with any resistance or any outpouring of support or opposition,” Faflick stated. Even prior to the enactment of laws prohibiting transgender females from playing on girls’ teams, some states largely prohibited the practice by addressing questions or concerns on an individual basis at the school or state athletic association level. Supporters of the restrictions argue that they safeguard equitable competition and scholarship opportunities for young women that have taken decades to achieve. They claim that before puberty, males have speed, stamina, and lung capacity advantages over girls.

Tom Horne, the elected Republican state school superintendent of Arizona, who is defending his state’s law in federal court, remarked, “I find it puzzling that more people aren’t feeling sympathy for the girls whose sports careers are ruined.” Doctors, caregivers, and advocates for LGBTQ+ rights counter that boys’ physical advantages are a result of an increase in testosterone during puberty — this alters gender-affirming care blocks. Furthermore, critics contend that the number of transgender athletes is so small that schools and associations governing school sports can manage their individual cases without a state law.

During the 2022-23 school year in Kansas, the State High School Activities Association recorded 11 transgender athletes, including three trans females. In the eight years preceding the 2021 implementation of Florida’s law, the state’s High School Athletic Association had approved 13 transgender athletes for participation. Becky Pepper-Jackson appeared to be the only transgender girl seeking to participate in girls’ athletics in West Virginia in 2021, when she and her mother, Heather Jackson, filed suit against the state over its law. Becky was 11 years old at the time.

Due to their lawsuit, the West Virginia law is on pause, and this spring, Becky, a 13-year-old eighth-grader, competed in the discus and shot put in seven track meets. The state is attempting to convince a federal appeals court to allow it to enforce its law, and in a filing last month, it cited Becky’s longer throws this year as justification. The state claimed that any time another female finished behind Becky in either event, which occurred more than 180 times, the other athlete was unjustly “displaced.”

Jackson stated that the state only knows her daughter “on paper,” and Becky improved by rigorously training with her own apparatus at home. Jackson told The Associated Press, “As parents, all we want for our children is for them to be successful and happy, period.” This should be an opportunity for everyone, always and everywhere in the United States.

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Inclusivity and Equity in Sports: Beyond Transgender Athletes, Concerns for Cisgender Females

As children across the United States return to school and begin autumn sports practices, four additional states expect their K-12 schools to exclude transgender females from their girls teams.

Educators and advocates for LGBTQ+ rights contend that transgender children are not the only athletes likely to be affected by the laws. Some individuals are concerned that parents will contest the right to play of cisgender females who are taller or more muscular than their peers, or who are significantly superior. Jane Doe, a 17-year-old cisgender female, was listed as one of the athletes who sued Idaho over its 2020 law. She had a “athletic build” and wished to avoid “invasive or uncomfortable” gender tests, according to the lawsuit.

G.A. Buie, executive director of United School Administrators of Kansas, an association of public school administrators, stated, “It will give some individuals the impression that they have the right to question the gender of another person.” Parents, physicians, and LGBTQ+ rights advocates argue that restrictions on transgender athletes have less to do with athletics and more to do with eradicating transgender children from society.

Anne Lieberman, policy and programs director for Athlete Ally, an organization that advocates for transgender athletes, stated that legislators fail to recognize that transgender, nonbinary, and intersex individuals have always existed. Unless a student’s transgender status is known, it is very difficult to prevent them from participating in sports.

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Source: ABC News

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