Transgender athletic rights under state and federal attack

Mia Emerson, Feature Editor, Editorial Cartoonist

Transgender rights have undergone an attack in the first few months of 2021 after 35 bills were introduced across the nation according to Wave Of Bills To Block Trans Athletes Has No Basis In Science, Researcher Says by Tinbete Ermyas and Kira Wakeam on Many of these bills have passed their State House of Representatives, one of the recent examples is the Mississippi bill signed into law by Governor Tate Reeves (MS-R). 

This law goes by the name “Mississippi Fairness Act” and will take effect after July 1. While this law seems to be promoting fairness and equality, it is actually transphobic rhetoric with little basis in fact. 

An example of obvious transphobia is the purposeful misgendering evident in the specifications of the law, referring to a transwoman as “a man who identifies as a woman” as seen in Section 2.k on the Mississippi Fairness Act.

The act aims to bar high school trans women athletes from competing in women’s sports with no mention of where transmen are allowed to compete. 

“Courts have recognized that the inherent, physiological differences between males and females result in different athletic capabilities. […] (noting that “high school boys [generally possess physiological advantages over] their girl counterparts” and that those advantages give them an unfair lead over girls in some sports like “high school track”)”

That is an excerpt from Section 2h of the “Mississippi Fairness Act”. These “physiological differences” between the male and female sex are mostly attributed to testosterone and that it would be unfair to cisgendered women if trans women are allowed to compete side-by-side. 

While studies have shown cisgender male athletes have about a 10-to-12% performance advantage over cisgender female athletes, there have been almost no issues when trans people participate in a sport corresponding to their gender identity. 

According to the Associated Press, “in almost every case, sponsors [of anti-trans athlete bills] cannot cite a single instance in their own state or region where such participation has caused problems.” 

This is evident that lawmakers proposing laws like the Mississippi Fairness Act do not have evidence-based reason to ban trans athletes from sports, therefore these bills are born of transphobia. 

There have also been outcries from feminist organizations, such as the National Women’s Law Center, at the Mississippi Fairness Act because the law allows people to question a girl’s gender based on appearance and force them to get examined so they can present a signed doctors note declaring their biological sex based on their internal and external reproductive organs, levels of testosterone, and genetic makeup. 

They argue that this could lead to people violating cisgender women’s privacy if their appearance is more masculine or otherwise does not conform to traditional gender roles. 

The law also argues these measures are taken to protect single-sex facilities for cisgender women’s right to bodily privacy. 

“Any student whose bodily privacy is violated, including encountering a person of the opposite sex in a facility traditionally designated for the exclusive use of members of one sex, by any action, policy or practice of a primary or secondary school or institution of higher education shall have a private cause of action for injunctive relief, damages and any other relief available under law against the school or institution.” (Section 5.3)

It is a little ironic for the same law that requires people to undergo physical examination and provide signed documentation declaring their sex whenever their gender identity comes into question to be arguing for the protection of bodily privacy. 

This juxtaposition shows that trans people do not have rights to bodily privacy, further cementing the fact that this law was written not with fairness in mind but rather was written to further strip transgender people of their rights. 

While it does not appear that Illinois has had any plans to introduce any similar state legislation, it is important to be aware of the wave of transphobic legislation being introduced throughout the nation, especially since transphobic legislation has already been introduced on a federal level. 

Florida Representative Gregory Steube introduced the bill Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2021, which aims to amend Section 901 of the Education Amendments of 1972, states that no person shall be excluded from, denied benefits of, or discriminated against on the basis of sex in any educational program or activity that receives Federal funding. 

The amendment to this section plans to define sex based on reproductive biology and genetics at birth and make it a violation of the Education Amendments of 1972 “to permit a person whose sex is male to participate in an athletic program or activity that is designated for women or girls” (Section (d). (1)).

It is important to approach federal law with caution, yet these anti-trans lawmakers cherry-pick what is considered factual to support their bigoted agenda. Trans rights must be approached fairly with the needs of transgender people in mind. 

Therefore, only people educated on transgender needs should make laws deciding their futures, however, many transphobic lawmakers exist which is why it is incredibly important for trans-advocates to challenge these laws through protests, petitions, donations to transgender organizations, and contacting government officials to protest anti-trans legislation. 

If you would like to act against these policies, I recommend visiting to do so.