Following the recent passage of the Equality Act in the House of Representatives, conversations surrounding transgender kids and sports have re-entered the national stage. 63 out of 75 anti-trans bills introduced at the state level are actively targeting trans kids, with many of these bills attempting to “protect girls’ sports.” Though protecting girls is a common argument used to keep transgender and cisgender kids apart, the exclusion of trans girls in sports would end up hurting all girls, trans and cis.
Gatekeeping girls’ sports is bad for all girls. Girls are already dropping out of sports at twice the rate of boys when they hit puberty. If labeling a girl as “too masculine” means she cannot participate in sports, how many more girls will be sidelined? Serena Williams, one of the greatest athletes of all time, is frequently in the center of attention, not only for her amazing talent, but for her “masculine” body. Beyond her muscular appearance, her perceived “masculinity” is inextricably linked to her identity as a dark-skinned Black woman. Stating that a girl must look a certain way to play on a girls’ sports team is baseless, racist, and sexist, especially when boys are not policed on the same level.
Furthermore, in order to “protect” girls’ sports, there must be a way to distinguish cis girls from trans girls. The Tuberville Amendment proposed that girls should be subject to anatomical inspections of their reproductive organs if suspected of being trans. Considering how many children suffer from abuse, sometimes at the hands of their doctors and coaches, the idea of an unnecessary and invasive exam is disturbing at its core. This legislation also raises the question of who should be subject to these inspections. If a girl does not fall into someone’s subjective idea of “femininity,” she would have to be examined. This amounts to punishment and humiliation for girls who just want to play sports and have fun with their friends. (See our other blog post for why it is so important that girls stay active.)
Most trans children know they are transgender from an extremely early age, long before their bodies goes through puberty. Because these children begin the transition before they hit puberty, most trans girls will never have the levels of testosterone that cis boys and men have. Despite concern from legislators, there are no “physical advantages” that a young transgender girl would have against a girl who was assigned female at birth.
It’s important to let all girls play, including trans girls. If these bills are enacted as law, there will be negative consequences for trans girls, cis girls, and girls’ sports as a whole.