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Transgender flag waving in a crowd of protesters. Photo: Angela Weiss/Getty Images
Transgender flag waving in a crowd of protesters. Photo: Angela Weiss/Getty Images

It may be Pride Month, but anti-Trans bills are still coming

Florida instituted a ban on transgender women and girls from sports teams on the first day of the month, as West Virginia faces a court challenge.

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On the first day of Pride month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an anti-trans bill into law, making Florida the eighth state this year to ban transgender girls and women in public secondary schools and colleges from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity.

2021 has been a difficult year for the LGBTQ community, specifically for trans youth. As of June 6, state legislatures across the country have introduced more than 100 bills restricting trans rights.

Many of these bills are targeting trans girls and women, banning them from participating on sports teams alongside cisgender girls and women. Some are even dangerous, as they involve restricting access to gender affirming healthcare, which can be life-saving in many cases.

Even more concerning, legislatures in Texas, Arizona and Oklahoma have been pushing to protect conversion therapy, the controversial “therapy” that seeks to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, told AL DÍA that these pieces of legislation are intentional attacks on autonomy and personal freedom.

“[It is an] attack against stigmatized minority communities in particular, attempts to control their bodies, to limit their ability to show up and self actualize and engage with social democratic institutions like the medical industrial complex,” Johns said. 

LGBTQ advocates denounced the move, with one group in particular, the Human Rights Campaign, vowing to mount a legal opposition to the legislation. 

Under this new law, public secondary school and college athletes may only participate in sports teams that match their “biological sex,” or the sex that was assigned to them on the student’s official birth certificate.

For many years, most scientists, as well as the general public, viewed the terms “sex” and gender” as interchangeable, but as visibility of transgender and nonbinary individuals has increased, so has research.

The fields of biology, chemistry and psychology have recently caught up to the rejection of the gender binary, and have come to the conclusion that sex refers to a person’s physiology, while gender is an innate sense of identity — one that is separate from reproductive organs and secondary sex characteristics.

For this reason, the terminology used in new legislation is overly simplistic and deceptive. 

The law goes further by allowing students to take legal action against a school if they have been “deprived of an athletic opportunity” due to a violation of the ban.

The common misconception driving the influx of anti-trans sports bills is that transgender girls and women, who were assigned male at birth, possess an inherent physical advantage over cisgender athletes. 

While there is some truth to this claim when it comes to cisgender men versus cisgender women in athletics, the belief that trans women and girls have an unfair advantage over cis women and girls doesn’t hold up, especially if trans athletes have taken puberty blockers or are on hormone therapy. 

However, most governors in states like Mississippi, Tennessee, Montana, South Dakota and more, fail to look into the latest findings. 

During an event for the bill’s signing, Gov. DeSantis said that this legislation aims to preserve the “integrity” of these competitions, as well as the athletic opportunities for cigender girls and women. 

"We believe that it's very important that the integrity of those competitions are preserved, that these opportunities are protected, and I can tell you this: In Florida, girls are going to play girl sports and boys are going to play boy sports," DeSantis said. 

The Florida Senate Democratic Caucus said in a statement that the law is an open attack on vulnerable LGBTQ students that is void of both “science and reason.”

"Not once has there been an incident or complaint in our state alleging that a transgender athlete's participation unfairly impacted middle school, high school or college athletic competition,” they wrote. 

West Virginia's version

Meanwhile, in West Virginia, yet another anti-trans sports law was passed by GOP Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday, April 28, but it is facing a legal challenge. 

Three civil rights groups filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday, May 26, arguing that the measure “unconstitutionally discriminates on the basis of sex and transgender status."

The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia (ACLU), along with the LGBTQ advocacy group Lambda Legal and Cooley LLP, filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson.

Pepper-Jackson, who will enter middle school this Fall and was a cheerleader for her elementary school, wants to keep playing sports at her middle school, but was denied a try out for the girls’ cross country and track team. 

Without court intervention, the active 11-year-old will be denied access to the team, “simply because she is transgender,” according to the lawsuit. 

Pepper-Jackson, who comes from a family of runners, wrote in an ACLU press release that she is disappointed and just wants to run. 

"I know how hurtful a law like this is to all kids like me who just want to play sports with their classmates, and I'm doing this for them. Trans kids deserve better,” she wrote. 

The lawsuit aims to gain declaratory and injunctive relief to allow the young runner to experience the joys of participating in athletics ``consistent with her gender identity” and without being excluded from other girls or treated differently based on her identity.  

"We look forward to showing in court that this law should be enjoined as unlawful and that Becky should have the same opportunity to play sports as any other child," said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP.

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