The U.S. is one of a handful of countries that don’t have any laws prohibiting discrimination against transgender people, and a lot of other countries only have a few. In the United States, a ruling from a federal judge last week has reignited a national debate on trans rights, and at the center of it is a novel legal case from the transgender world.
In the middle of this past year’s debates over transgender bathroom policies, one group of young transgender athletes has found themselves caught in the middle. And the players themselves say they’ve been punished for simply trying to be themselves.
In what some are calling a “watershed moment” for trans youth, the US Department of Education has issued a new set of guidelines on the treatment of gender identity in schools. The new guidelines, which will become federal laws in a few months under a law that was passed in Obama’s last days in office, do not ban school-based transgender sports programs, but they do require that school districts be able to demonstrate that they have made a “compelling case” for allowing transgender students to participate in sports programs.
As the sun sets behind the Appalachian Mountains, BECKY PEPPER-JACKSON slips her toes into her running shoes. She enjoys running towards the end of the day, when the summer heat has subsided and she has completed her errands. The 11-year-old and her family reside on three acres outside of Bridgeport, West Virginia, a little community of less than 10,000 people located midway between Charleston, the state capital, and Pittsburgh.
Becky needs to let the chickens out and fill the water bucket every morning. “Which, by the way, half the time ends in a hose battle,” Becky’s mother, Heather, adds.
Becky gets into the family vehicle with her mother, father, and elder brother on this particular July evening to go to their favorite jogging location. They go to a cross street where the cows outnumber the vehicles because the road they live on is too crowded.
“They can see you from a mile away,” Heather recalls of the vehicles that do arrive. “Literally.”
Since Heather carried her about in a stroller, Becky has been accumulating kilometers with her mother. Every evening, they now run a mile through the undulating hills. When they run, they sometimes count as well. Heather includes math wherever she can since it is Becky’s favorite subject. Heather explains, “We conduct counts while we’re jogging.” They may keep track of how many breaths they take between footfalls. Heather then transforms it into a narrative issue to make it more engaging. “For example, if we walk 47 more steps, how many more breaths do we need to take to remain on track?”
All of Becky’s running has placed her in contention for a spot on her middle school’s cross country squad. This is her first opportunity to run competitively for her school as a sixth-grader. Heather adds, “It’s the first time I’ve done any organized sports other than cheer.”
The obvious option was cross country. Becky explains, “The reason I enjoy it so much is because my entire family has always done it.”
However, in the spring of 2021, when West Virginia enacted HB 3293, a legislation prohibiting transgender females from participating in girls’ and women’s sports, Becky’s road to running competitively was almost barred.
West Virginia is one of seven states that approved a legislation restricting transgender athletes’ access to sports during the 2021 legislative session; almost three dozen other states have filed measures to do the same. Transgender children in the United States are caught in the midst of an ongoing and often nasty fight over science and assumption, sex and gender identity, politics and policy, as a new school year starts and youth sports reclaim their footing following pandemic precautions. Stephanie is a soccer player who is nine years old. Kris Wilka is a football player who is 13 years old. They aren’t Olympians or NCAA All-Americans. They aren’t even students in high school. They’re simply kids who want to have fun.
Heather adds, “Becky is just like any other 11-year-old girl.” “Transgender individuals are no different than anybody else. They’re all ordinary people.”
Heather decided to file a lawsuit.
There are policies all over the place.
TITLE IX PROHIBITS discrimination “on the basis of sex” in federally funded educational activities, including sports, and it is at the center of this dispute. During the last three presidential administrations, the interpretation of how Title IX applies or does not apply to transgender athletes’ participation in sports has been the subject of a political tug-of-war.
23 states sued after the Obama administration released official guidelines mandating transgender inclusion in schools via the departments of Justice and Education in the spring of 2016. That advice was officially withdrawn and the cases were dismissed when the Trump administration entered office in 2017.
Transgender students have been at the forefront of the Biden administration’s selections for leadership in the Department of Education. The government viewpoint has been stated by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. In a June interview with ESPN’s Paula Lavigne, he stated, “Transgender athletes are students first and foremost, and they deserve every privilege that every other student receives.” “This entails participation in extracurricular activities such as theater and athletics. It makes no difference.”
Without a clear government policy, Becky Pepper-options Jackson’s are frequently limited by where she lives. While nine states have legislation prohibiting transgender athletes from competing, transgender youth’s sports eligibility is usually decided by the rules of each state’s high school association, resulting in a patchwork of policies throughout the nation. Not to mention the perplexity.
“They’re attempting to get legislative traction for an issue that doesn’t exist.” Niehoff, Karissa
Transgender kids in Connecticut, for example, are allowed to compete according to their gender identification without having to undergo medical testing. In Kentucky, transgender kids who never went through puberty associated with their sex assigned at birth — known as endogenous puberty — are allowed to compete according to their gender identification. They must have been on hormone treatment for “a significant period of time” and have had surgery if they began puberty. Their birth certificate, on the other hand, defines which group they are eligible to enter.
Most state organizations fall somewhere in the middle, using committees to evaluate paperwork or having separate regulations for transgender boys and transgender girls, ignoring the reality that some children are nonbinary or have gender identities that are more fluid. There are two organizations in Iowa, one for boys and the other for females. Transgender boys are welcome to join the boys organization without limitation. The Girls Association recommends that transgender girls be included, but each school must make its own decision.
The state associations sometimes take a back seat. In Georgia, schools determine who may participate in which sports, therefore if a school says a transgender athlete can compete in a category that matches their gender identification, the organization says it will accept it. Policies are established at the school level in Alaska as well, but if a school does not have one, the student’s birth certificate is utilized instead.
However, what was previously the province of state organizations is now finding its way into state legislatures.
Heather and Becky argued in court that West Virginia’s HB 3293 infringed on Becky’s Title IX rights, and the judge granted her permission to participate in cross country. ACLU
In addition to West Virginia, legislation banning transgender athletes was passed in Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Montana in 2021. Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota issued two executive orders imposing similar limitations on transgender females participating in sports at the high school and college levels. These eight states have now joined Idaho, which was the first to enact similar legislation in 2020.
Because a federal court issued a preliminary injunction on Aug. 17, 2020, Idaho’s legislation has yet to take effect. Becky and Heather also obtained a preliminary injunction in West Virginia, allowing Becky to try out for the cross country team at her high school this autumn.
Judge Joseph Goodwin of West Virginia believes Pepper-Jackson and her attorneys will be successful in establishing that HB 3293 is illegal and violates her Title IX rights.
“At this time, I have been given little evidence that this legislation solves any issue at all, much alone a significant one,” Goodwin said in the decision.
Which begs the question: why are so many of these legislation being introduced and, in some instances, passed into law?
The beginning of the tale
THE REFEREE Aroused Mack Beggs’ right arm to indicate the new Texas girls’ state wrestling champion in 2017, it raised eyebrows all across the nation. Because of Texas regulation, Beggs, a transgender male, was ineligible to participate in the boys category.
Then, in Connecticut’s 2018 outdoor and 2019 indoor girls’ state track championships, transgender sprinters Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood placed first and second, respectively.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) then filed a Title IX complaint and a lawsuit on behalf of a group of cisgender females in Connecticut. While these teenagers were far from the first transgender athletes to compete in sports (Renée Richards successfully sued the United States Tennis Association in 1977 to gain the right to compete in the US Open, and Kye Allums became the first openly transgender person to compete in NCAA Division I athletics in 2010), their achievements drew national attention to transgender athletes’ participation in sports.
Rep. Barbara Ehardt of Idaho was present. Concerned that the participation of transgender athletes in girls’ and women’s sports was discriminatory, the former Cal State Fullerton women’s basketball coach opted to seek legislation in Idaho. As she worked on the law, she sought advice from ADF. “There was no law in the [ADF],” Ehardt adds. “I’m the one who began it all.”
On the day after ADF launched a federal lawsuit against the Connecticut high school association on the steps of the state house, HB500 was presented in Idaho.
Idaho Rep. Barbara Ehardt, a former collegiate basketball coach, was the first to pass legislation limiting transgender athletes’ ability to participate in sports. Keith Ridler/AP Photo
Bills titled “Fairness in Women’s Sports” and “Save Women’s Sports” have appeared throughout the nation in the 18 months afterwards.
“What these do is ensure that the women’s division is reserved for biological females while allowing any student to compete in the men’s division and category,” says Matt Sharp, senior counsel for the ADF, an organization whose stated mission is to protect religious freedom, free speech, marriage and family, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.
Many of the legislation submitted in 2021 were aided by ADF, which is classified as an anti-LGBTQ hate organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center. “I’m not sure we were engaged in all of them,” Sharp recalls, “but I know we were consulted on many of them and called out to by the sponsor asking for our experience and legal skills and advice.”
The executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), Karissa Niehoff, isn’t sure what all the commotion is about.
“They’re attempting to drum up legislative support for an issue that doesn’t exist,” Niehoff adds.
This year, the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) conducted an informal poll to determine how many transgender athletes competed throughout the nation. “It was a very small number,” she adds.
There are no statistics on the amount of transgender students in high school, much alone transgender student-athletes. In the United States, there are about 15 million high school students, with approximately 8 million of them participating in high school sports. According to a CDC report released in 2019, 1.8 percent of high school students are transgender, implying that there are approximately 270,000 transgender kids in high schools throughout the United States. However, according to a Human Rights Campaign study, just 14% of transgender males and 12% of transgender girls participate in sports. Given those figures, it’s statistically conceivable that there are 35,000 transgender high school players, or 0.44 percent of all high school athletes.
Even if it’s just a small percentage of the athletic population, that’s a lot more transgender young people participating in sports than has made news. This is due to the fact that the vast majority of them do not win titles. Glenn Lungarini, executive director of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), saw the phenomena firsthand in his discussions with parents throughout the state.
“What was extremely revealing for me was a remark from the parents who said, ‘We know there are other transgender girls running, but we don’t care since they aren’t winning,’” Lungarini adds.
Many state lawmakers use Andraya Yearwood’s achievements in Connecticut with fellow transgender sprinter Terry Miller as justifications for banning transgender females from sports. Pat Eaton-Robb/Associated Press
The Associated Press asked legislators who supported transgender athlete legislation for local examples, but they were unable to provide any. It’s possible that this is because no transgender athletes competed in their states, but it’s also possible that the athletes who did compete did so without incident, just like the majority of their peers.
The Connecticut case, on the other hand, was cited by certain legislators. And Connecticut is often mentioned as the basis for the necessity for these laws in discussion after debate.
“What is seen as transgender female dominance was not in Connecticut,” Lungarini adds.
For his doctorate study, Lungarini compared the track performance of transgender females in Connecticut to that of cisgender boys and cisgender girls. Miller and Yearwood came in first or second 35 percent of the time in state championship races, according to his data.
“It is blatantly misconstrued that transgender ladies dominate the sprinting scene of indoor and outdoor track in Connecticut,” Lungarini adds. “And, in my view, this is true throughout the nation.”
So, what’s the difference between perception and reality? That question has no solutions, not even in science.
What does science have to say about it?
TRANSGENDER ATHLETES: DETERMINING A DEFINITIVE SCIENTIFIC POINT OF VIEW IS DIFFICULT. What determines sex in the first place is at the heart of the problem. And when is it going to happen?
ADF describes males as “those born with XY chromosomes” and girls as “those born with XX chromosomes” in court papers, implying a belief that sex is immutable.
Sharp, when asked whether ADF believes that chromosomes determine gender, replies, “I wouldn’t say ADF’s view is correct. When it comes to a person’s biological sex, I believe it is more of a scientific fact that it is inscribed into every cell of their body and is something that is permanent and unchangeable in terms of the XX, XY chromosomes and other such things.”
While chromosomes are immutable, they aren’t the only factors that influence sex, according to pediatric endocrinologist Susan Boulware.
“Biological sex is essentially a mix of genital appearance, which is governed by endogenous hormones,” explains Boulware, the Yale Gender Program’s medical director. “Chromosomes, hormones, and attractiveness all play a role.”
That isn’t to imply that there aren’t physiological distinctions between individuals who are born male and those who are born feminine. Size and muscle mass differences are two examples.
“When we’re talking about middle schoolers, people immediately want to speak about Olympians.” Anne Lieberman is a writer who lives in New York.
However, there are few research on transgender athletes that might be useful in developing policy and/or legislation for middle and high school sports. Studies on the physiological consequences of hormone treatment exist, but they often concentrate on adult transgender individuals performing athletic activities like pushups and running, rather than young transgender athletes at different phases of puberty.
In 2020, Karolinska Institutet professor Tommy Lundberg told ESPN, “Puberty is the time when the sex segregation in terms of physical capabilities becomes apparent.” “There isn’t really any scientific foundation or biological necessity to segregate boys and girls in sports before puberty.”
Is there truly a difference for children who never experience endogenous male puberty?
“I’d say no,” says Boulware.
A large percentage of transgender teenagers will never experience puberty, which is linked to their sex given at birth. Social transition may occur in primary school for children who identify as transgender at an early age. As puberty approaches, kids may start taking puberty blockers, a medication that medically slows puberty. They may then undergo cross-hormone treatment in their early to mid-adolescent years. It’s worth mentioning that puberty blockers and many, but not all, of the side effects of cross-hormone treatment are reversible. When it comes to surgery, children are seldom subjected to it. “The standard of treatment remains 18,” adds Boulware. “Many insurance providers demand that you be at least 18 years old.”
Elementary school children are mentioned in the legislative text in Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, and Montana. While coed sports are permitted, these regulations make it difficult for a transsexual female to participate in girls’ sports. Sharp adds, “We believe that’s the most fair and consistent approach to do it.”
It may be consistent, but it is debatable if it is fair.
“People often mix up the levels of sport we’re talking about,” says Anne Lieberman, director of policy and programming at Athlete Ally. “When we’re talking about middle schoolers, people immediately want to speak about Olympians.”
And in other cases, even younger.
Stephanie is a soccer fanatic.
STEPHANIE ENJOYS PLAYING SOCCER. She’s been playing for what seems like her whole life at the age of nine. She adds, “I’m fairly sure it’s been since I could kick a ball.” (Stephanie’s family desired anonymity for their own safety reasons, therefore their names have been altered.)
Stephanie was up surrounded by sports. Both of her parents were Division I athletes. Julie, her mother, was a tennis player, and John, her father, was a basketball player. Stephanie often shoots hoops with her father when they go to the park. She also runs track, which she claims aids her soccer performance. “That’s one of the reasons I’m so quick,” she explains.
Stephanie started expressing her gender identification as soon as she was able to speak. She adds, “I immediately knew I was a female.”
One of her instructors invited the pupils to discuss what makes them special last year. Stephanie raised her hand and said that she was transsexual when the instructor called on her. Stephanie explains, “And then everyone just started raising their hand, wanting to respond about a sibling or sister or anything.”
“There isn’t really any scientific foundation or biological necessity to segregate boys and girls in sports before puberty.” Tommy Lundberg is a Swedish actor.
John and Julie shrugged aside Stephanie’s revelation that she was a girl when she initially informed them. It became apparent over time that Stephanie wasn’t talking about a phase. Julie discovered this at a routine doctor’s appointment. Stephanie replied clearly and firmly that she was a girl when the doctor questioned her then-4-year-old daughter whether she was a boy or a girl.
Julie adds, her eyes welling up, “I broke into tears at the doctor’s office, and I do now, thinking about it.” “I was terrified. I’d done some online research, but I was still frightened.”
Stephanie changed her pronouns in first grade and wore dresses to kindergarten. Her parents officially changed her name four years ago since flying had gotten more difficult. Stephanie was taken out of the ladies bathroom by a teacher when she was younger, but the adjustments have generally been good and without too much trouble at school. She maintained, through sobs, that she was meant to be in the toilet. Stephanie recalls, “I kept telling her my mom said I could.”
Julie and John wanted their children to participate in sports even before they had them. John grew up in many places, and athletics enabled him to make friends with people from various walks of life. “It offers you access to individuals you would never meet if you were simply hanging out with your school or family,” he adds. “I don’t want her to lose out on everything I had, and potentially more. She’s a fantastic young athlete. She’s also gifted and intelligent. She was capable of a great deal.”
Stephanie and her family reside in Arizona, where legislation limiting transgender athletes’ participation in sports has been proposed. So yet, none of them have been enacted into law.
Julie has visited the offices of lawmakers. She sat across from political authorities, pleading for her daughter’s rights. Stephanie typically expresses an interest in attending, but Julie believes she is too young. Julie saw a picture on one official’s wall of his kids playing soccer in a park where she had frequently seen Stephanie play. She told him, “You know, there’s a high possibility your kid has played soccer against my daughter.” “You’d have no clue what I’m talking about. She looks and acts just like any other young girl.”
He didn’t react in the manner she had expected. Julie describes his expression as “terrified.” She takes a breath and sighs.
“All I want is for people to imagine themselves in our shoes.”
Fair and open to everyone
THE TRUTH IS THAT NO ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL SOLUTION EXISTS. Should the same rules that govern the Olympics and the NCAA apply to middle school sports? Clubs? Intramurals? A transgender lady cannot play intramural women’s basketball at Ole Miss due to existing Mississippi legislation.
“I believe that this notion of justice versus inclusiveness has been positioned as though they are in direct conflict to one another,” says Chris Mosier, a transgender athlete and advocate. “And that isn’t the case at all. At the same time, sports may be both fair and inclusive.”
What does a fair and inclusive policy look like? “In a nutshell, it’s complex,” Mosier adds.
Mosier and other inclusion supporters think that transgender students should be allowed to participate in school athletics in a way that is consistent with their gender identification without having to jump through legal and medical hurdles.
“To expect young kids in school sports to the same standards and regulations as professional or Olympic and Paralympic competitors is absurd,” Mosier adds.
“I’m the one who began it all.” Barbara Ehardt is a well-known author.
The landscape is quickly changing outside of K-12 sports. The NCAA’s rules, which have been in effect since 2011, suggest that you do the following: If they haven’t started testosterone therapy, transgender men can compete in either the men’s or women’s category, but they must compete in the men’s category if they have started testosterone therapy; transgender women can compete in the women’s category after one year of testosterone suppression and estrogen therapy, but they must compete in the men’s category if they haven’t started hormone therapy. While the restrictions are not enforced for NCAA member institutions, they are for all NCAA championships, and several transgender athletes have participated successfully, but not without controversy. June Eastwood earned a conference title in the women’s indoor mile in 2020, and CeCé Telfer became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA championship in the women’s 400m hurdles in 2019.
Over the course of a decade, the NCAA rules have been utilized as a model for other regulatory bodies, including high school organizations. However, the speed with which the legislation are being disseminated throughout the country has increased criticism of both the NCAA and the International Olympic Committee rules.
Laurel Hubbard, a transgender weightlifter from New Zealand, competed in the Tokyo Olympics but failed to finish any of her three lifts. Before leaving the tournament, Hubbard made a heart sign to the audience. Seth Wenig/AP Photo
“Most current rules at the collegiate and elite levels, including the IOC policy and many national governing organizations,” Mosier adds, “do not pay attention to any athlete’s social transition.”
The current policy on this issue in the United States, including most high school associations, focuses on mitigating the assumed advantage of a transgender athlete and ensuring that no athlete, particularly in girls’ and women’s sports, is pretending to be someone they aren’t to gain a competitive advantage.
However, not all policies are based on such principles. For its varsity teams, Canada’s U Sports, the national governing body of college sports in the country, has a simple policy: “student-athletes may compete on the sport team that corresponds to either their sex assigned at birth or their gender identity, provided that student-athletes are in compliance with the Canadian Anti-Doping Program at all times.”
“Only around [2%] of collegiate athletes go on to play top sports,” adds Lieberman. “The majority of collegiate athletes participate in sports for the love of the game, for the experience of competing against their peers, and to be a part of a community.”
At the Olympic level, all competitors, including transgender athletes, are scrutinized more closely. Transgender males may participate without limitation, while transgender women can compete in the women’s division after one year of hormone treatment and blood testosterone levels below 10 nanomoles per liter, according to IOC rules. However, in the next months, these rules are likely to alter.
The first openly transgender athletes participated in Tokyo earlier this year, after the IOC established its first transgender athlete policy in 2003 and updated it in 2015. Alana Smith, a skateboarder, and Quinn, a soccer player, both participated in women’s sports. Quinn made history as the first transgender person to win a medal when she won gold with the Canadian soccer team. Two transsexual ladies were also present. Chelsea Wolfe was a reserve for the United States’ BMX team, while Laurel Hubbard represented New Zealand in weightlifting. She was unable to accomplish any of the three lifts she attempted.
Kris is smitten with football.
He’s a guitar student who loves the Dallas Cowboys. Kris Wilka also wants to play tackle football for his middle school this autumn, rather than flag football. ABC
Near a park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, KRIS WILKA DRIBBLES a basketball. The bright blue sky contrasts against the green grass and bushes as the early summer light shines down on the tarmac. In the historic area, large houses, often with enormous or wraparound porches, rise across the street. The park is bustling, but the basketball court is deserted except for Wilka, who is dressed in a T-shirt and long shorts. He is ready to attend eighth grade, standing 5-foot-6 and 14 years old. The ball clangs off the rim as he sets up from 12 feet.
With a grin, he adds, “I’m working on my shot.”
He takes a seat at the picnic table, his blue eyes squinting in the light. His hair is sandy brown, short on the sides with a tuft on top, and he has freckles on his nose and cheeks. He’s been learning to play the guitar on his own. He says, “That’s All Right, Mama,” alluding to Elvis Presley’s song. “It’s the first one I’ve heard that I believe I could play,” she says.
Wilka is far from the first person to conduct an interview. He has repeatedly spoken out when legislation was proposed throughout the nation this spring, even in his own state. “Well, some people don’t have a voice,” Wilka explains, “and I want to be that voice for those individuals.” “After hearing my tale, a cousin came out to me. That is why I do what I do. As a result, individuals feel more at ease in their own flesh.”
In South Dakota, this isn’t a new topic of discussion. After the South Dakota High School Activities Association established a policy that was more accepting of transgender athletes, the state’s first bill targeted at transgender athletes was introduced during the 2016 session. A transgender person wanting to engage in sports consistent with their gender identification was needed to produce evidence, including a physician’s letter, demonstrating that their gender identity was “sincerely held as part of the individual’s fundamental identity.” HB 1112, a measure introduced in 2016, aimed to repeal the regulation. Despite its failure, it paved the way for subsequent transgender youth-related legislation in South Dakota over the past half-decade.
“In the last seven years, there have been almost 30 pieces of anti-LGBTQ and anti-Two Spirit legislation,” says Jett Jonelis, advocacy manager for the ACLU of South Dakota. “It’s simply been a series of various efforts throughout time. It was bathroom bills after marriage equality. Then there were locker rooms. Now it’s all about health care and sports.”
Many states have proposed legislation restricting access to sports, as well as legislation criminalizing gender-affirming health treatment for transgender kids. Only Arkansas has enacted such legislation. A federal judge later halted it in July.
Wilka started expressing himself as a boy at the age of two. When his relatives exposed him to the Green Bay Packers, he became enamored with the sport. “And then I discovered the Dallas Cowboys,” he adds, “and I’ve been a fan of Cowboy Nation ever since.”
Wilka started playing football in the South Dakota Junior Football League after discovering he could throw the ball quite effectively. He adds, “I didn’t want to play flag.” “I was like, ‘I’m going to play tackle or I’m not going to play football.’”
He began his career as a quarterback, but after exceeding the weight restriction for quarterbacks in the younger levels, he switched to the offensive line. He’s thinking about trying out for quarterback again now that he’s in middle school and his stature isn’t a problem, but he also enjoys playing on the line.
Most laws aimed at transgender kids in sports exclude transgender guys like Wilka who wish to participate in boy’s sports. This year, though, that was not the case in South Dakota. Students would have had to submit their age, sex assigned at birth, and proof that they had not used “performance enhancing medications, including anabolic steroids” in the previous 12 months under HB 1217, which passed both legislative houses. Testosterone is an important component of medical transitioning for many transgender guys.
HB 1217 was eventually brought back to the legislature after Noem issued a “style and form” veto, and the bill died when the legislature refused to accept her suggested modifications. Noem explained her veto in an op-ed, claiming that the law would not have stood up in court. The PED clause was not included in the executive orders she signed. The impact of these laws on transgender boys isn’t limited to provisions like the one in HB 1217. Unless there is no counterpart for females, Alabama law prohibits someone designated female at birth from participating on boys’ teams. Wilka would probably not be impacted if something like that passed in South Dakota since he plays football, but a transgender kid who plays soccer in Alabama is not permitted to play males’ soccer under the existing legislation.
Wilka is consumed with the prospect of losing football.
“I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t have football,” Wilka says.
What comes next?
Chris Mosier, a transgender athlete and advocate, believes that requiring children to submit medical or legal documents in order to participate on a team that matches their gender identification is ridiculous. Getty Images/Tribeca Film Festival/Slaven Vlasic
If the year 2021 has taught us anything, it’s that these bills aren’t going away. During the special session of the Texas legislature, a measure impacting transgender athletes was discussed, although it is uncertain if it will pass. More legislation are expected to be submitted by 2022.
“The primary goal is exactly what the legislation seeks to achieve, which is that a girl, a female athlete, regardless of where she lives, what grade she’s in, or whether she’s in high school or college, knows she’ll have a fair and level playing field when she tries out for the team or steps up to the starting line,” Sharp says.
Advocates for inclusion are concerned.
“I don’t believe legislators are done trying to push this,” Mosier adds, “since states that have passed this have had very little repercussions.”
The public uproar was considerable when legislation like Indiana’s 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act and North Carolina’s 2016 “bathroom bill” passed. After then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed RFRA, the criticism was so intense that he modified the state’s new legislation eight days later. Corporations abandoned growth plans in North Carolina, conferences and concerts were canceled, and the ACC, NCAA, and NBA relocated events out of the state.
“At the same time, sports may be fair and inclusive.” Chris Mosier is a writer who lives in the United States
However, there has been a lot of quiet as states adopt legislation limiting transgender athletes.
“I promise you that if the NCAA, for example, came out after Idaho’s HB 500 and said, ‘We won’t host championships in states that have this type of legislation,’ we wouldn’t have seen another bill pass,” Lieberman adds.
The NCAA stated on Aug. 3 that it had no intentions to move the tournament, but that it would “ask all hosts to restate their commitment to guarantee a nondiscriminatory and safe environment for all collegiate athletes under their host agreement.”
It’s also unclear if these legislation will be permitted to take effect and/or stay in place. Suits have been filed in Idaho, West Virginia, and Florida, with the Human Rights Campaign planning to bring suit in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
However, all of these legislation, whether approved or not, and laws, whether in force or not, have the potential to have an influence beyond the courts, fields, and trails. The Trevor Project is the world’s biggest LGBTQ young people’s suicide prevention and crisis response organization. In a recent national poll, 94 percent of LGBTQ adolescents said current politics had a detrimental impact on their mental health and well-being.
“These legislation have had a significant detrimental effect,” says Amit Paley, CEO of The Trevor Project. “Words are very important. According to our findings, these phrases have a negative effect on the mental health and sense of self of trans and nonbinary young people.”
Becky Pepper-Jackson goes for a mile run every evening with her family, so the cross country trials looked simple at first. Raymond Thompson Jr. is a member of the Thompson family.
BECKY PEPPER-JACKSON raced across the municipal park, her boots thumping against the concrete as she dodged the other youngsters trying out for the squad.
Becky felt the first portion of her first middle school cross country practice was simple. It was the second half that really got to her.
“Doing the sprints was the most difficult part,” she adds.
In the park, her coach put up a square. The runners ran one side before jogging the remaining three. Then there was two, two, two, two, two, two, two, two, two, two, two After that, three and one. Finally, a sprint around the perimeter of the plaza.
Becky was exhausted at the end, but she hoped she’d be able to continue going to practice.
The girls’ cross country lineup was finalized after a few weeks and a few exhausting workouts. Becky took out her phone to FaceTime her working mother.
Becky’s quest has not been well received by everyone in the neighborhood. “There are a lot of different reactions,” Heather adds. “They just believe that since she was born a man, she will have an edge as a runner.”
When Heather returned Becky’s call, she was greeted by her daughter, who was looking at her with a serious expression on her face. Becky said, “Mom, they chose who made the squad.”
Heather inhaled deeply. “How did it go?”
Becky’s face lit up with a grin. “I was selected for the squad!”
In a recent article for the Transgender Law Center , the Center for American Progress , a progressive organization, published a model policy that would ban discrimination against transgender students in K-12 public education.. Read more about transgender men in sports and let us know what you think.
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