A bill that could have blocked transgender athletes from competing in interscholastic sports died unceremoniously in the Texas House on Friday.
The bill, which was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate, would have allowed the University Interscholastic League, the state’s governing body for high school athletics, to disqualify student-athletes who are on steroids, even those prescribed by a doctor.
Currently, the UIL’s policy bans the use of steroids, but has a “safe harbor” provision that allows students to take the hormones if they are prescribed for a “valid medical purpose.”
The issue is particularly salient for transgender boys who are on testosterone and other hormones as part of their transition. Because Texas law requires trans athletes to compete in sports according to their biological sex at birth, some lawmakers have argued that transgender boys on testosterone are gaining an unfair athletic advantage over the girls they compete against.
The bill would also have required students to notify the UIL of their hormone use and to hand over any “health-related information” to the league — which some opponents say is a violation of healthcare privacy laws. Once informed of the steroid or hormone use, the league would have been required to hold a closed-door meeting and ascertain whether to bar that student from competing.
The justification for the bill seems to be embraced by many lawmakers, but due to the looming end-of-session deadline, there is not enough time to vote the bill out of the House Public Education Committee, according to The Dallas Morning News.
LGBTQ advocates criticized the bill, saying it singled out transgender students and questioning the timing of it. Earlier this year, conservatives were outraged after Trinity High School wrestler Mack Beggs, a transgender boy, won the UIL state girls’ wrestling title. Beggs’ title was unsuccessfully challenged by a parent of a fellow wrestler, but he was protected by the “safe harbor” provision that the bill seeks to eliminate.
Beggs will be wrestling against boys this summer with USA Wrestling, as both the national amateur wrestling governing body and the U.S. Olympic Committee affiliate have amended their policies to allow transgender boys who’ve undergone puberty to wrestle against other boys. But he will have to continue wrestling against girls when he returns to school in the fall.
Allies of the LGBTQ community say that if people have a problem with Beggs wrestling against girls, the fix is simple: change the law to allow transgender students to compete in sports consistent with their gender identity.
“All young people should have the opportunity to play interscholastic sports and have their personal dignity respected,” Equality Texas said in a Facebook post. “Transgender young people are no different. Glad this bill died. Now, we need the UIL to correct their misguided policy on eligibility based on birth certificates.”