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A Texas law barring transgender students in public schools from competing on the sports teams aligned with their gender identity came into effect Tuesday.
It was one of the dozens of bills targeting trans youth that swept through state legislatures across the country in 2021. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a far-right, anti-LGBTQ+ Republican,“quietly” signed the bill into law in October.
House Bill 25 requires student-athletes to play on teams that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificate, which must have been issued near the time of birth. The Lone Star state joined Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, and Tennessee in passing such legislation last year. Idaho and West Virginia adopted similar laws, but those are temporarily blocked by court action. The governor of South Dakota has issued executive orders with the same effect, and a bill has been introduced this year.
Bills like HB 25 have been vetoed by the governors of Kansas, Louisiana, and North Dakota.
According to the Trevor Project, a nationwide suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ youth, about1 in 3 LGBTQ+ youths report participating in sports. Of that number, trans youth are less likely to compete compared with LGB peers, Casey Pick, Trevor Project’s senior fellow for advocacy and government affairs, told The Texas Tribune.
“Many of these youth tell us that they didn’t participate in sports because of fear of harassment discrimination, so that is a reality,” Pick explained. “But some of the youth who do participate tell us that it is their one source of relaxation, their place to find camaraderie and teamwork, that they have a lot of fun and sometimes it’s the place they feel best about their bodies and who they are.”
LGBTQ+ rights activists have continued to condemn the bill.
“Lawmakers have willingly ignored the overwhelming harm that this bill and bills like it has already caused in favor of exploiting our differences and the lack of familiarity that some people may have about transgender people,” Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, told The Texas Tribune. “This we know stokes fear, and it divides us.”
On Tuesday, Lambda Legal’s senior staff attorney Shelly Skeen issued the following statement: “HB 25 targets and attempts to further marginalize an already vulnerable student population by denying transgender kids the many benefits and opportunities full and equal participation in interscholastic athletics provides. It not only excludes them from the leadership skills, teamwork, self-esteem, discipline, health benefits, and camaraderie that sports offer, but it also sets them apart from their peers each day at school, subjecting them to increased bullying and harassment, which is already all too pervasive in our schools. No student in our state, or anywhere, should suffer such unfair and unequal treatment simply because of who they are.”