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Opinion: New Law Harmful To Transgender Student Athletes

New Texas law discriminates against transgender student athletes
Photo courtesy of Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
A plaque divides men and women’s locker rooms. As of Jan. 18, transgender girls will have to compete as the gender they were assigned at birth because of House Bill 25.

During a third special legislative session called by Gov. Greg Abbott, a new law was passed, amending an existing law regarding the participation of transgender individuals in high school sports. 

It requires that public school students compete in University Interscholastic League, or UIL, competitions based on their gender assigned at birth. This law, also known as House Bill 25, went into effect on Jan. 18, 2021.

This law is horrible, discriminatory and reminiscent of the era of bathroom bills and laws passed to limit the rights of transgender individuals. Since 2016, the UIL, which is the Texas organization that creates rules for high school sports, has required students participating in these sports to compete according to the gender listed on their birth certificates, but accepted amended or updated birth certificates that aligned with their gender identity. However, now the UIL will only accept original birth certificates, not updated ones. 

Texas is aggressively and specifically targeting the LGBTQ population, following a disturbing trend of discriminatory laws. This bill is the ninth statewide bill regarding the topic of transgender participation in sports, and the 10th in the entire country. In the past year, Texas lawmakers have proposed nearly 70 anti-LGBTQ+ bills, including more than 40 bills that are intended to limit opportunities for transgender and nonbinary youth. These numbers are far higher than in any other state. 

Additionally, this law will take a large emotional toll on these young athletes. According to a study by the Trevor Project, 52% of transgender youth have seriously considered suicide, and 20% have attempted suicide. Transgender youth are already at increased risk for experiencing mental health issues and suicidal thoughts due to the discrimination and rejection that they face on a daily basis. 

This harmful legislation will only make matters much worse. Not being allowed to play on sports teams that align with their gender identity isolates youth more from the supportive team environment that sports often provide. This bill isn’t just a law. It’s state-sponsored bullying. 

During a news conference, Republican state representatives including Rep. Valoree Swanson defended the law by claiming it was necessary to protect cisgender girls and prevent their displacement by transgender athletes. Laws like this can certainly be disguised under the intention of wanting equal opportunities for athletes. However, the exact opposite is true. Instead of promoting equality, the law singles out and disadvantages transgender youth.

Science and inherent differences between men and women are often cited whenever bills are passed to limit participation of transgender people, especially transgender women, in school sports or even as professional athletics. These bills are often centered around the idea that transgender women and girls have a biological advantage over their cisgender counterparts. However, this argument is not based on factual evidence and is simply an excuse for these lawmakers to isolate and systematically discriminate against transgender athletes. 

There is no evidence that proves transgender women systematically have an advantage over cisgender women according to an NPR interview of Dr. Eric Vilain, a pediatrician and geneticist who studies sex differences in athletes. If that were the case, we’d have an epidemic of transgender women winning athletic competitions, and this just has not happened.

Someone who has elevated testosterone levels may have an advantage in some specific events like a 400-meter dash or pole vaulting, but not necessarily in every sport because every sport requires different physical abilities.

Additionally, as Vilain points out, many transgender girls take puberty blockers that delay the effects of testosterone on the body, and in those cases any possible advantage caused by testosterone simply would not exist. By barring transgender individuals regardless of their circumstances from competing as their true gender, Texas is persecuting them, not following science.

Transgender youth are just like any other high schoolers, and deserve to be treated as such. There is no reason that, in 2022, transgender athletes should feel like they are below or less than their cisgender teammates. If the Texas legislature is interested in protecting girls in sports, it must repeal House Bill 25 immediately.

About the Contributor
Ellie Levy
Ellie Levy, Editorials editor
What are your favorite TV shows/movies? Community and Back To The Future What are your hobbies? Reading, TV, and French Horn What causes are you passionate about? Climate change and child labor regulation