The Kansas Legislature is considering a bill to ban transgender girls and women from participating in female sports, adding to the recent slew of anti-trans bills in several states. Unlike what its proponents argue, Senate Bill 208 would not “create fairness in women’s sports.” Instead, it is a disgusting attack on a marginalized community that will undoubtedly lead to further bullying of trans children, who already face unconscionably high suicide rates due to harassment and discrimination.
Under this proposed law, if an undefined and hypothetical “dispute regarding a student’s sex” occurs, schools would have to “verify the student’s biological sex” through a healthcare professional’s physical examination of “the student’s reproductive anatomy (or) genetic makeup.” Doing so would be ridiculously invasive of all students, trans or not, who just want to enjoy school athletics and competition.
Women’s sports are not “being threatened,” as the bill’s sponsor said.
Other proponents used this argument here and in several other state legislatures with similar policy debates. Anti-trans athlete arguments tend to fall into two categories: being born with male characteristics gives transgender women an unfair advantage, and that boys may “pretend” to be trans to compete with women.
According to the NCAA’s 2011 Inclusion of Transgender Student-Athletes handbook, “these assumptions are not well-founded.”
First of all, trans people do not transition on a whim. Soul searching, coming out, and presenting as who they truly are is time-extensive and difficult, especially if they face backlash from family members, teachers, coaches, and society at large.
The trope of an epidemic of boys faking being trans to play on the girl’s team is just that, a non-factual trope. It is not the lived experience of actual trans individuals.
Secondly, “the assumption that a transgender woman competing on a women’s team would have a competitive advantage outside the range of performance and competitive advantage or disadvantage that already exists among female athletes is not supported by evidence,” according to the handbook.
Olympics teams have allowed transgender competitors since 2004, and the NCAA followed suit in 2011. The only controversy these decisions have sparked came from transphobic, clickbaity news sites and individuals, not a consensus of medical experts or athletes.
The only “threats” occurring here are against the existence of trans people.
Kansas once banned same-sex marriage in its state constitution. 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision overruled that ban. If this transphobic garbage passes, it will face the same fate. The question before us now is, at what cost?
How much more harassment will trans kids endure? How much time and taxpayer dollars wasted on legislating a solution in search of a problem? On legal fees when courts inevitably strike it down for Title IX violations?
During the bill’s hearing last week, Kendall Hawkins, a special education teacher and transgender woman, said she empathized with the loss of trans kids to violence and suicide.
“I don’t just feel their loss, I experience it,” she powerfully testified to the committee. “I’m tired of standing at candlelight vigils. I’m tired of burying trans kids. Why aren’t you?”
Thankfully, organizations are working to protect transgender youth and further LGBT rights in Kansas. GLSEN Kansas creates LGBT-safe school environments, and Equality Kansas advocates for anti-discriminatory policies and education. Both groups deserve engagement and support for their important work.
Aaron Strain is a South Hutchinson sophomore studying journalism. They are the Opinion Page Editor