- The Magazine
A Republican lawmaker from Oklahoma who was one of the driving forces behind a bill to bar transgender student-athletes from participating in women’s sports is standing by a controversial remark he made claiming transgender people “have a mental illness.”
Rep. Justin Humphrey (R-Lane), made the comment in an email exchange with a woman urging him to vote against the bill.
“I never mind helping to educate the uninformed,” Humphrey wrote in the email, which was obtained by The Associated Press. “I understand…transgender people have a mental illness.”
When asked about his comments to the emailer, Humphrey told The AP: “I don’t have any problem backing up what I said. If you’re a male, you’re a male to the core. This is science and logic, and science and logic are on my side.”
But doctors and scientists say a person’s assigned sex at birth and gender identity may not align, and the American Academy of Pediatrics says variation in gender identity is a normal part of human diversity.
In fact, the AAP, along with most major medical associations in the United States, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, have issued statements supporting gender-affirming care and opposing anti-transgender bills, which are based on misconceptions about transgender bodies and gender dysphoria.
Allie Shinn, the executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, told The AP that Humphrey’s comments were misguided and hurtful.
“People in Oklahoma need real help right now,” Shinn said. “They need serious leaders to address serious problems, and they ought to wonder about the caliber of a legislator who is using his platform to attack literal children in the middle of a pandemic.”
Humphrey was the committee chairman who helped revive the bill barring transgender participation in sports, along with the help of Rep. Toni Hasenbeck (R-Elgin), removing the bill from the Common Education Committee and placing it in the Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, where it was approved on a 4-1 vote. The bill previously passed the Senate with enough votes for an override should it be vetoed by Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), who is expected to sign it into law, meaning passage by the full House is the last obstacle to its progress.
Similar bills have been signed into law in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi this year, and governors in Texas, Alabama, West Virginia, North Dakota, and several other states may soon follow suit.
Currently, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, the governing body of high school athletics in the state, has an identical policy to the one currently in place for NCAA athletes at the collegiate level. Both associations require transgender females to undergo a year of testosterone suppression treatment in order to compete in female sports.
Opponents of the bill barring transgender participation based on gender identity have warned that legislation viewed as hostile to the LGBTQ community could spark a backlash from the NCAA, which recently reiterated its position that cities that wish to host NCAA sporting events must be able to provide environments for student-athletes that are “safe , healthy and free of discrimination” — something that the presence of anti-transgender laws undermines.
Each year, the NCAA holds its College Softball World Series in Oklahoma City, which generates about $20 million in revenue for the city. Some lawmakers fear that a ban on transgender athletes will lead the NCAA to relocate the tournament to another city, just as it did with seven different championship games in 2016 after North Carolina passed a bill restricting which restroom facilities transgender individuals could use.
But Humphrey says he stands by his belief that the ban should pass, regardless of any backlash from the NCAA.
“Any big organization that tries to intimidate us, hold us hostage by threatening us with their income: Don’t let the door hit them on the way out,” he said.
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