Bill to ban transgender athletes creates problem where there was none

It has passed in the Senate, and it may well pass in the House, but controversial measure that would force high school athletes to play based on their gender at birth is unnecessary, bad for business, just plain wrong

Rather+that+supporting+the+competitive+needs+of+an+already+disadvantage+class+of+student-athletes%2C+Senate+Bill+29+manufactures+a+problem+related+to+their+participation+that+is+far+more+hypothetical+than+it+is+empirical.

Anna McClellan

Rather that supporting the competitive needs of an already disadvantage class of student-athletes, Senate Bill 29 manufactures a problem related to their participation that is far more hypothetical than it is empirical.

By Thomas Melina Raab, McCallum High School

Texas Republicans are once again introducing a bill that would limit the rights of transgender students, and it passed through the Senate on April 14. It’s one of several bills attempting to restrict the rights of transgender Texans. Senate Bill 29 deals specifically with sports. Senate Bill 29 is an anti-LGBTQ+ bill that is currently on its way to the Texas House of Representatives.

On April 19, the bill was referred to the public education committee. From there, it is likely to move to the House floor for debate where it may very well pass.

Senate Bill 29 is bad policy that discriminates against Texans and attempts to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.”

The last piece of state legislation similar to this one was the 2017 bathroom bill, which would have forced transgender students to use only bathrooms that correspond to the gender they were assigned at birth. Despite months of controversy over the bill, and a huge push for its passage by the Republicans in the Legislature, led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the bill fell quiet, and it was not brought back up when the next legislative session began in 2019.

Despite the outcome of the bathroom bill, Republicans in 2021 have moved on to wage another series of battles in the same war. And the sports bill is a main component of that effort. There is a common belief among conservatives that this new restrictive sports bill is necessary because male athletes are choosing to transition into females in order to dominate women’s athletics.

In presenting one of several bills that attempted to address this perceived injustice, Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Harris County, stated the aim of this campaign: “A biologically male student may not participate in an athletic team that is designated for participation by only biologically female students.”

Swanson’s reasoning for this bill invokes the common argument made by Republicans about why the bill is necessary.

“This bill is a common-sense measure that is sadly necessary in a world where male athletes are robbing women of both championship trophies and educational opportunities,” Swanson said.

Contrary to what Swanson and many others on the right believe, there is no widespread epidemic of men transitioning into women for the sole purpose of dominating athletics. That is not to say that it hasn’t, and will not happen, but it is not common at all. In fact, it is more correct to say that in making this argument, Republicans are creating a problem that doesn’t exist.

A look at National Collegiate Athletic Association statistics regarding transgender athletes illustrates that is a non-issue.

The NCAA allows athletes to participate in the gender with which they identify. According to estimates made by the NCAA, fewer than 1% of student-athletes identify as transgender. In 2020, there were more than 480,000 athletes competing in championship sports. That’s fewer than 5,000 athletes in all of the college sports who identify as transgender. And even then, none of those 5,000 athletes dominate their sport. None of the big-name athletes who are widely touted as top draft prospects are transgender.

It’s just not the government’s place to say anything about someone’s identity.”

— junior Ceder Herring

The cisgender athletes, those who identify with their birth sex, who make up 99% of college sports are almost completely unaffected by the 1% of transgender athletes. It is exponentially more important to appeal to the very simple needs of those transgender athletes than those cisgender athletes who have been just fine thank you during the decades of turmoil caused by an unnecessary argument over whether or not trans athletes belong in sports.

If this bill were to pass it may affect current or future McCallum athletes. Currently, UIL uses the gender on students’ birth certificates in order to determine whether the student will compete in boys or girls sports. If an individual were to have the gender on their birth certificate changed, however, UIL would recognize that change and allow the athlete to compete with their gender identification. If this bill were to be passed, UIL would no longer be allowed to recognize a change on a student’s birth certificate, and that student would only be able to compete against the gender they were assigned at birth.

Some Knights feel that this is not an appropriate use of time for our government.

“I think the government concerns with this are out of place, and it is obviously exclusionary of trans athletes. If they want to play let them,” said one student, who wished to remain anonymous due to the controversy of the topic.

Bills like this are being introduced all over the United States, in places like Mississippi, Idaho and Montana. These bills range from something as simple as participation in athletics to much more serious topics like refusal of care by a medical practitioner to someone who is transgender.

Ceder Herring, a gender-fluid former athlete, and student trainer believes that banning trans athletes from sports is wrong.  

“Sports is a competition,” Herring said. “Some people are just built for sports and others are not, but everyone deserves a shot to play under their chosen gender.”

If the state legislature is going to legislate away any competitive advantage, where will it stop? Physical advantage is an individual fact of life, not a group quality that can be legislated out of competitive sport. Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, had a serious competitive advantage over everyone else in the pool. Not only does he have the perfect build, tall, lanky, with a broad wingspan and short legs, but he also produces less lactic acid than the normal person. Is it unfair that he has an advantage in the pool? Of course not. 

Even worse than this overstepping is the legislator’s judgment on a person’s choice of who they are.

“It’s just not the government’s place to say anything about someone’s identity,” Herring said.

While the government has a say in much of people’s daily life, Herring and many others believe people’s personal identity is something that cannot and should not be regulated. And in this view, they are absolutely correct.

I think it’s blatantly transphobic and just another example of our government spending way too much time, effort, and money on oppressing trans people instead of fixing any actual issues.”

— junior Mason Jones

Just this past month, the South Dakota legislature passed a bill that would restrict high school and college trans athletes in the same way that the Texas bill intends to. After initially supporting the bill, South Dakota governor Kristi Noem vetoed it after business leaders convinced her the ban on trans college athletes would cost the state millions in lost NCAA tournament revenue. When conservatives deemed her veto as a sign of weakness, she issued two executive orders restricting trans athletes in elementary, middle, high school and college trans to the gender “as reflected on their birth certificate issued at the time of birth.”

Gov. Noem justified her executive orders with this statement: “Only girls should play girls’ sports.”

I agree wholeheartedly because transgender girls like cis girls are, in fact, girls.

SB 29 is looking like it’s going to be a repeat of what happened in South Dakota, as the bill has already passed in the Texas Senate. The yeas were 18 (out of 30) with the support and backing of the bill coming almost exclusively from right-wing politicians, who hold an 83 to 67 majority in the House.

“I think it’s blatantly transphobic and just another example of our government spending way too much time, effort, and money on oppressing trans people instead of fixing any actual issues,” junior Mason Jones said. “There have been around 150 mass shootings in 2021 alone but the government sees trans people playing sports as one of the real issues plaguing our nation.”

Senate Bill 29 is bad policy that discriminates against Texans and attempts to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. It should be flushed down whatever commode is closest, no matter what gender is specified on the entrance door.

This story was originally published on The Shield Online on May 3, 2021.