Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has signed a bill banning transgender students from participating on sports teams that align with their gender identity.
Currently, the University Interscholastic League, which governs school sports in Texas, prohibits student-athletes from playing on teams that do not match the sex listed on their birth certificate. But the UIL also accepts legally modified birth certificates for transgender students who had transitioned.
The bill approved by Abbott, which will go into effect on Jan. 18, eliminates that remaining exception.
Proponents of the law — including its lead sponsor, State Rep. Valoree Swanson (R-Spring) — have claimed it is necessary to ensure that cisgender females are not disadvantaged by having to compete against transgender females who have innate biological advantages.
“It’s so very, very important that we protect everything that women have gained in the last 50 years,” Swanson said, arguing that the bill aligns with the spirit of Title IX, which bans discrimination based on sex in educational settings, and has been credited with providing greater athletic opportunities for female students.
But LGBTQ advocates say the bill is simply an attack on the transgender community, and have accused Texas lawmakers of trying to erase transgender individuals from all aspects of public life or deny their gender identity — pointing to recent posturing by Abbott in support of barring transgender youth from receiving gender-affirming care, in response to criticism from a fellow Republican challenging him in next year’s gubernatorial primary.
“We are devastated at the passage of this bill. Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids and adults, families and advocates, and the many emails and calls our community placed to the Governor’s office to veto this harmful piece of legislation, it is now law,” Ricardo Martinez, the CEO of Equality Texas, said in a statement.
“Most immediately, our focus is our community and integrating concepts of healing justice to provide advocates who have already been harmed by this bill with spaces to refill their cup and unpack the acute trauma caused by these legislative sessions,” Martinez continued.
“Our organizations will also begin to shift focus to electing pro-equality lawmakers who understand our issues and prioritize representing the vast majority of Texans who firmly believe that discrimination against trans and LGB+ people is wrong,” Martinez added, referring to next year’s midterms, when the legislature and statewide offices are up for election.
Abbott’s signature makes Texas the tenth state to enact a ban on transgender athletes, although the bill, which easily passed the more conservative State Senate, had stalled during the regular legislative session and in two of three special legislative sessions called by Abbott for the purpose of pushing through conservative “wish list” legislation, including the sports ban.
However, as the Texas Tribune noted, the bill was only able to pass in the House after it was rerouted from the House Public Education Committee — chaired by Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr., a Houston Democrat (who is no friend to the LGBTQ community in his own right) — to a special “Committee on Constitutional Rights and Remedies” chaired by a Republican.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ organization, condemned the bill’s passage.
“This is a dark and frightening day for thousands of families in Texas who fear for the safety and future of their transgender children,” Human Rights Campaign Texas State Director Rebecca Marques said in a statement.
“Transgender animus is on the rise in Texas and across the country, as evidence by discriminatory legislation, and this only serves to give fire to the hate we’re seeing.”
Marques continued: “This bill has always been a right-wing political ‘solution’ in search of a problem, as Governor Abbott and Texas legislators have failed to provide examples of any issues in the state because there simply are none.
“In face, the single Texas incident they cite — the participation of a transgender boy forced to participate in a female wrestling competition, is actually the very situation that this bill would mandate.”
The LGBTQ educational advocacy organization GLSEN also condemned the bill as a “politically-motivated assault on the equal rights of transgender people.”
“GLSEN strongly condemns Governor Abbott for signing HB 25 into law and we will continue to devote our support and resources to the transgender young people in Texas and across the country who are leading the fight against these kinds of cruel political attacks,” GLSEN Interim Executive Director Melanie Willingham-Jaggers said in a statement.
“The exclusion of transgender children from school sports does irreparable harm, fueling bias, fear, and discrimination in our schools and among our youth. According to GLSEN’s 2019 National School Climate Survey, more than 80 percent of transgender students experience gender-based bullying and victimization at school and more than 40 percent missed school in the last month because they felt unsafe,” Willingham-Jaggers added.
“Schools across the country can do their part to stand up against this wave of anti-transgender rhetoric by creating affirming and inclusive athletic spaces in their own communities. Every student should have equal opportunity in education where they can thrive and reach their full potential.”
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!