(Daily Kos) – Another day, another piece of anti-trans legislation moving through our systems of government. This Tuesday, Republican lawmakers introduced a bill in Wisconsin that would, like so many others, bar transgender youth from participating in girls’ sports. The Wisconsin bill focuses on sports from both public and private schools from kindergarten through college. And, similar to the hysteria when anti-trans bathroom bills were all the Republican rage, lawmakers are arguing that this issue isn’t about harming transgender folks (which it of course is) but rather about protecting [cisgender] girls and women.
“If the governor is truly for women, why would he not sign something like this?” Republican Rep. Barb Dittrich, who introduced the measure, said in reference to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, as reported by local outlet WISN. “It is wholly unfair for a woman to be competing and think she’s only competing against other females.” Creating a false divide between cisgender and transgender youth is not only an enormous waste of time and resources during a literal global pandemic, but deeply harmful for transgender kids and teenagers who are already more vulnerable. Let’s break down the details of this measure and the bigger picture issue with these legislations below.
Right now, more than 20 states have similar measures in the works. As Daily Kos has covered, the anti-trans legislation flurry tends to hit one of two (if not both) areas: keeping transgender youth out of girls’ sports and preventing transgender youth from getting gender-affirming medical care by making it a crime for physicians to provide it. Meanwhile, transgender youth (and, frankly, everyone else) are just trying to survive an actual public health crisis and collective trauma. But what do Republicans love to focus on? Hysteria that only divides us. In this case, little children playing sports.
In Wisconsin, the bill—called the “Protecting Women in Sports Act”—would limit students to joining the teams that align with their sex as identified by a physician at birth. Otherwise, teams would have to be designated as co-ed. The bill also includes technical colleges as well as the University of Wisconsin teams.
Republican state Rep. Janel Brandtjen argued in favor of the bill at a news conference, stating that it’s a matter of “biology” that “you can’t win against men.” The use of “men” here is particularly telling, especially when you consider the rest of her statement.
“You’ll ruin women’s sports forever,” Brandtjen stated as reported by the Associated Press. “Why would you compete if you knew you couldn’t win? We want a fair playing field.” But here’s the thing: Transgender girls aren’t boys or men. They’re girls. And for far too many trans kids, fitting in and finding some semblance of joy and acceptance is about far more than just winning a medal or trophy.
Studies show that LGBTQ youth, and particularly transgender youth, are more likely to live with mental health issues like anxiety and depression, experience bullying and harassment at school, and are even more likely to become homeless. Studies also show that transgender youth are more likely to leave high school without a diploma. Studies also show that acceptance from adults can reduce attempted suicides among LGBTQ youth. Acceptance! That should be the baseline but sadly, it isn’t.
As reported by Madison.com, Cathryn Oakley of the Human Rights Campaign summed up much of what we already know: Part of what makes these bills so incredibly frustrating is that they’re largely in response to a nonexistent issue. “Trans-inclusive policies have been in place for the NCAA and the Olympics for years,” Oakley stated. “Lawmakers’ suggestion that student athletes are trying to game the system for competitive advantage is nonsensical and impractical. It simply does not happen.”
Luckily, Gov. Evers is not expected to sign the bill should it advance up to him. While that of course is a relief, the big-picture issue still stands. The more Republicans try to sneak these anti-trans bills through, the more the ideas behind them become normalized and expected as part of party politics. As so many people face unemployment, housing insecurity, and grieving those lost to COVID-19, it’s all too easy for exclusionary measures to become just another issue that people want to agree to disagree on. But when lives are literally on the line, that’s never okay.