Trans athlete bill becomes law

After a lengthy battle, Democrats fail to thwart HB 25’s journey to Abbott’s desk


Jordan Vonderhaar

Transgender rights activists gather outside the entrance to the House floor on May 23. Photo by Jordan Vonderhaar for the Texas Tribune. Reposted here with the permission of Texas Tribune deputy photo editor John Jordan.

By Thomas Melina Raab, McCallum High School

House Bill 25, which limits transgender students’ ability to compete in the sport that corresponds to their gender identity, was signed into law on Oct. 25 by Gov. Greg Abbott. The bill was introduced during the most recent special session by Republicans in the Texas House of Representatives.

House Bill 25 wasn’t the first time the Texas Republicans have pushed a bill attempting to limit the rights of transgender students.

In 2017, state Republicans pushed forward a bill attempting to restrict trans students’ bathroom choice. That bill never became law. Last session, Senate Bill 29 was the trans athlete bill that was heavily contested and never realized. Through successful lobbying and delaying by House Democrats, Senate Bill 29 did not make it out of the House before the deadline for bills to pass and reach Gov. Abbott’s desk.

After Senate Bill 29 fell out of the House, Democrats had their moment to celebrate, but it didn’t last long. Shortly thereafter, Abbott called a special session and one of the topics put on the agenda was transgender athlete legislation.

[House Bill 25] is all about girls and protecting them in our UIL sports. ”

— Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, the author of HB 25, on Oct. 14, the day the House passed the bill

Delaying a bill during a special session is much more difficult than doing so during a regular session. There are fewer bills and topics on the agenda, making it much harder to keep a bill off the floor.

On Sept. 25, House Bill 25 was filed by House Republicans. Similar to previous legislation, the bill uses an interpretation of Title IX to justify its relevance and importance.

Section 2 of the House Bill 25 reads, “The purpose of this Act is to further the governmental interest of ensuring that sufficient interscholastic athletic opportunities remain available for girls to remedy past discrimination on the basis of sex.”

House Bill 25 mandates that students participating in public school athletics compete in both individual and team sports according to their biological sex as specified on their original birth certificate.

“This is all about girls and protecting them in our UIL sports,” Rep. Valoree Swanson, the author of HB 25, said on the House floor on Oct. 14, the day the House passed the bill by a vote of 76-54.

Texas Democrats fought House Bill 25 the same way that they had Senate Bill 29 and the other legislation that came before it.

“We’re playing games with the people who’ve represented the state that we claim to love,” Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, said during the 10 hours of House debate that preceded the vote to pass the bill. “You’re causing more pain tonight. We hope the courts will protect us, but damage has been done.”

You’ve got to be kidding me. [House Bill 25] creates fear in the locker room.”

— senior Ceder Herring, a non-binary trainer on the passage of HB 25

Once House Bill 25 passed through the House, many Democrats saw the passage of the bill as imminent. They assumed that upon reaching the Senate, the Democrats no longer had a realistic chance of killing the bill.

That assumption was proven correct, as the bill passed in the Senate within two days of being received from the House. On Oct. 17, House Bill 25 passed its final vote with 76 yeas and 61 nays.

On Oct. 25, Gov. Abbott, a big supporter of the legislation, signed it into law. The law will become effective Jan. 18.

The reaction of senior Ceder Herring, a non-binary trainer, to the passage of House Bill 25 was succinct.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” they said. “It creates fear in the locker room.”

Herring, along with other non-binary students, has chosen to use the women’s locker room rather than the men’s because “it feels safer.”

Senior Chris Schumann, a transgender athlete, says the new law encourages existing resistance to transgender athletes competing as they wish to.

This season, Schumann decided to play girls basketball, a sport he’s played since freshman year. Schumann said he would prefer to play baseball this season but ultimately decided against it.

“Everybody knows how a lot of the guys are here [at McCallum],” Schumann said. “You can tell they’re not on the same page. It’s kind of frustrating being alone and wanting to put myself out there. It’s hard.”

We hope the courts will protect us, but damage has been done.”

— Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin

Both Herring and Schumann expressed the belief that the new law would not be strictly followed at McCallum.

“I feel that the McCallum coaches will not be trying to regulate this because that’s not what Mac is about,” Herring said.

While Herring may be correct that Mac coaches might not strictly enforce the new law, after it goes into effect on Jan. 18, allowing athletes to compete opposite the gender specified on their birth certificate would be against state law.

Democrats claim they will continue their battle against transgender discrimination. This process could be hard for Democrats to even initialize however, as they have claimed that this legislation does not directly affect as large a demographic as Republicans have claimed that it does. This lack of impact might make it harder for lawyers to file cases against the law.

The two parties will continue to fight over this topic, but for now, House Bill 25 has given Texas Republicans a win and transgender student-athletes a loss.

—with reporting by Samantha Powers

This story was originally published on The Shield Online on December 8, 2021.