Original illustration by Kit Mills

By Sami El-Hajjar, age 11

Republicans in Idaho, and others in primarily conservative states, have been targeting trans youth. Idaho and several other states have been pushing bills and legislation that prohibit trans youth athletes from competing on teams that identify with their gender. 

Lawmakers in at least 30 states have introduced legislation to ban transgender athletes from high school and college women’s teams. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a press conference after passing the anti-transgender legislation, “In Florida, girls are going to play girls’ sports, and boys are going to play boys’ sports.” Many people are worried about the ramifications. 

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, explained in an interview with the New York Times that these bills have significant consequences for transgender youth. “When you tell a transgender child or teenager that their identity is in their heads—that it’s imaginative, it’s not real—it has significant collateral consequences,” said David.

To date, there are still no conclusive studies which suggest that transgender girls outperform cisgender girls. A lawsuit was filed against the Connecticut Association of Schools by the families of three cisgender girls upset about transgender girls participating on their track team. Two days after the lawsuit was filed, one of the cisgender girls outperformed one of the transgender girls on the team. “Attempts to force transgender girls to play on the boys’ teams are unconscionable attacks on already marginalized transgender children, and they don’t address a real problem,” said Jack Turban, a fellow in child and adolescent psychiatry at the Stanford University School of Medicine in an opinion piece in Scientific American.

Many people are advocating for inclusivity when it comes to sports. Dr. Eric Vilain, a geneticist who studies sex differences in athletes, reported to NPR that sports are about inclusivity and setting goals, not competition. “[T]he rules still need to be inclusive, or at least not come up with arguments that are not based in science.”

Recently, President Biden signed an executive order that allows transgender girls to compete on women’s teams that received federal funding. The bill Idaho is proposing could be viewed as unconstitutional because it violates this executive order. Yet many governors, including Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, are still trying to get their bills passed.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has also condemned such bills, stating on their website that “[t]he NCAA Board of Governors firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports. This commitment is grounded in our values of inclusion and fair competition.”

Sports have been shown to not only boost one’s physical health but also are shown to have significant physiological benefits. Sports have a multitude of positive effects that play a key role in a child’s development. If this bill and others like it pass, many transgender youth will not be able to participate in sports, which will ultimately isolate and marginalize their community even more. 

Susan Maasch, director of the Trans Youth Equality Foundation, said in an interview with IndyKids, “These bills are illegal and take away the trans child’s right to an equal education under the law.” Their organization’s mission is to advocate for transgender and non-binary youth in America. When asked if Biden is doing enough, Maasch responded, “He needs to do more, and I believe he will. I hope I am right.”