Eager to try and distract the general public from failures and ineptitudes regarding pandemic response, Republicans have spent the first few months of 2021 stoking hysteria over transgender youth. As Daily Kos continues to cover, state Republicans have introduced a number of measures that aim to keep transgender girls and women from participating and competing on girls’ sports teams. Lawmakers have also introduced bills to make it even harder, if not outright impossible, for transgender youth to receive gender-affirming medical care.
Texas in particular has recently introduced a number of anti-trans bills. People are speaking out against the bills—including 10-year-old Kai Shappley, a transgender little girl, who went viral for testifying before the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs. A glimmer of good news arrived on Tuesday when the bill that aimed to keep trans girls out of girls’ sports in the state failed to pass out of committee in the Texas House by one vote. The bill isn’t entirely defeated for this legislative session, technically, but this is still a great sign.
On Tuesday, SB 29 did not receive enough votes to advance to the full chamber from the House Public Education Committee, as reported by The Texas Tribune. The committee includes seven Republicans and six Democrats, so its failure to advance is a significant relief in the big picture battle for equality. Before the vote took place, Democratic State Rep. James Talarico argued that the only purpose of the bill was to “hurt kids,” and that he “didn’t come here to hurt kids,” as reported by The Houston Chronicle. Talarico is definitely correct, and it would be a real step forward if every elected official in the nation took on his perspective.
In detail, SB 29 would require students who play on public school sports teams (starting in kindergarten) to play on the team that matches their sex assigned at birth, not their actual gender identity. There’s an important distinction in language here: It’s not simply the sex listed on the birth certificate, but the one listed at or around the time of birth.
Why does this matter? Some transgender folks do choose to update the sex listed on their birth certificate (which can help when one goes to, say, update the sex on their ID or passport) but obviously, that’s not going to happen at the time of birth. So by specifying the sex must be the one identified at birth, the bill explicitly excludes both transgender students who do not (for whatever reason) update their birth certificate, as well as those who actually do.
In speaking to local outlet KRGV, Madeleine Croll, an openly trans woman, expressed her concern that trans kids may be excluded from sports because of these legislations. Croll, who said she knew she was trans from a young age but did not come out until she was in her thirties, stressed to the outlet that one of the core values in sports is “unity.” She continued: “It’s comradeship. It’s this whole idea of working together as a team to overcome struggles.” Croll is right: Excluding trans kids from the opportunity to form bonds, participate in teams, and gain personal development skills can have long-term effects, in addition to the obvious unethical discrimination at play.
In terms of victories, we have to take them when we get them. For example, the Kansas Senate failed to override a veto from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly in an effort to push the state’s anti-trans sports bill into effect. Mind you, their effort at overriding the veto also failed by just one vote, so it’s not time to get comfortable, but it is time to take some breaths and recognize small victories as they come. With more than two hundred anti-LGBTQ bills popping up around the country, the onslaught can feel endless and exhausting.
We must act now to urge our senators to vote “yes” to the Equality Act.
Sign and send the petition: The Senate must pass the Equality Act and stop the discrimination against LGBTQ people.