Story at a glance
- More than a dozen states are enacting legislation to restrict the rights of transgender Americans to participate in sports.
- Mississippi became the first state to pass such legislation this year.
- LGBTQ+ advocates are pushing back and challenging legislation in court.
Mississippi passed a law banning transgender athletes from competing on girls or women’s sports teams, the first of more than a dozen states pursuing similar legislation to restrict the rights of transgender athletes to participate in sports.
"I never imagined dealing with this, but POTUS left us no choice. One of his first acts was to sign an [executive order] encouraging transgenderism in children. So today, I proudly signed the Mississippi Fairness Act to ensure young girls are not forced to compete against biological males," said Gov. Tate Reeves, using a term commonly employed by anti-transgender activists to dehumanize transgender people and reduce who they are to a condition, according to GLAAD.
I never imagined dealing with this, but POTUS left us no choice. One of his first acts was to sign an EO encouraging transgenderism in children. So today, I proudly signed the Mississippi Fairness Act to ensure young girls are not forced to compete against biological males. pic.twitter.com/INZgKQRMJr— Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) March 11, 2021
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The executive order in question prevents discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation and defends the right of children “to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.” While the text alludes to the right of transgender students to participate in sports unrestricted, the Biden administration has not explicitly said as much, leaving room for interpretation as federal agencies, including the Department of Education, "consider whether to revise, suspend, or rescind such agency actions, or promulgate new agency actions, as necessary to fully implement statutes that prohibit sex discrimination.”
Transgender athletes and LGBTQ+ advocates nationwide sounded off against the legislation, which is similar to dozens of proposed bills in multiple states across the country that aim to keep transgender women out of women’s sports. There is no definitive evidence that transgender athletes have an advantage over their peers in sports, especially when taking hormones or suppressants.
3. Scientifically, for trans children receiving appropriate gender-affirming health care, there is no advantage over cis children in sports. Medical studies have made this clear. It is an incredibly destructive and harmful myth to suggest otherwise. It exploits fear and bigotry.— Charlotte Clymer ️ (@cmclymer) March 5, 2021
They ARE illegal. The CRUELTY is the point.https://t.co/ObO6a2QBf2— Dr. Veronica Ivy (@SportIsARight) March 11, 2021
"Governor Reeves’ eagerness to become the face of the latest anti-transgender push is appalling, as he chooses fear and division over facts and science. This law is a solution in search of a problem, and legislators in Mississippi have not provided any examples of Mississippi transgender athletes gaming the system for a competitive advantage because none exist," said Alphonso David, Human Rights Campaign President, in a statement.
The bill, which requires all public schools and members of the NCAA, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics or National Junior College Athletic Association to designate athletic teams or sports "according to biological sex,” also puts the state in opposition with the NCAA's policy, which allows transgender athletes to participate under specific hormone requirements. Just one day earlier, more than 500 college athletes sent an letter asking the NCAA Board of Governors to refuse to schedule championships in states that have banned transgender participation in sports.
"You have been silent in the face of hateful legislation in states that are slated to host championships, even though those states are close to passing anti-transgender legislation," the letter said.
Last month, in response to another bill banning transgender students from sports in Montana, the NCAA told SB Nation it was monitoring all state bills and federal guidelines that impact transgender student-athlete participation.
“The NCAA believes in fair and respectful student-athlete participation at all levels of sport," said the organization. “The Association’s transgender student-athlete participation policy and other diversity policies are designed to facilitate and support inclusion. The NCAA believes diversity and inclusion improve the learning environment and it encourages its member colleges and universities to support the well-being of all student-athletes.”
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