Mississippi has voted overwhelmingly in favour of banning trans athletes from school sports, ignoring all evidence proving that such bans are harmful and unscientific.
The state’s Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, passed the discriminatory bill in a 34-9 vote on Thursday (11 February) with very little prior discussion, AP reported.
The bill will now be voted on in the Mississippi House of Representatives, where Republicans also hold the majority.
“All this bill does is put transgender youth at risk of bullying, exclusion, and increased danger while discrimination and violence against transgender people is at a record high in this country,” the Human Rights Campaign Mississippi’s state director, Rob Hill said, according to CNN.
“If legislators would simply listen to medical experts and transgender athletes, they might know that transitioning for the sake of competitive advantage is simply unrealistic. So is the idea that transgender athletes even gain a supposed advantage in the first place,” he added.
Mississippi is one of a dozen states with lawmakers proposing restrictions on athletics or gender-confirming healthcare for transgender minors this year.
Supporters of bills like the one in Mississippi argue that transgender girls are naturally stronger, faster and bigger than their cis counterparts.
But it has been widely noted that any athlete, male or female, transgender or cisgender, can have competitive advantages for multiple reasons besides hormones such as testosterone (usually cited as giving advantage to trans women), including body size, access to training, and more.
And the idea that trans athletes’ physiological characteristics might provide them with an “unfair advantage” in sports is not based in science at all.
“There’s not really any sound body of evidence that speaks to the advantage that testosterone confers,” explained Dr Vinny Chulani, director of the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Adolescent Medicine Program, in an interview with them last year.
“When you take a look at some of the studies that have been done on transgender females in terms of their athletic ability, it overlaps with the range that you would find in cisgender women. There is no body of evidence to suggest that there is an advantage.”
In fact, the ACLU notes that in many states, the very same cis girls who have claimed that trans athletes have an “unfair” advantage have consistently performed as well as or better than transgender competitors.
“These bills are not addressing any real problem, and they’re not being requested by constituents,” Human Rights Campaign said in a statement on Wednesday (10 February).
“Rather, this effort is being driven by national far-right organisations attempting to sow fear and hate.”