Tennessee becomes third state this year to sign indefensible anti-trans sports ban

Josh Milton
·3-min read

Tennessee became Friday (26 March) the third US state to cruelly pass a bill banning trans girls from playing in middle and high school sports as their correct gender.

State governor Bill Lee announced on Twitter he had signed Senate Bill 228 to “preserve women’s athletics and ensure fair competition”.

Such a view, the American Civil Liberties Union, is based on “discriminatory, harmful and unscientific” myths about trans athletes.

Under the ban, student-athletes in Tennessee will be required to prove what sex they were assigned at birth to participate in school sports.

It follows Arkansas and Mississippi passing similar prohibitions which are part of a 25 state-strong wave of Republican legislatures bulldozing imperilling anti-trans laws. More than 20 statehouses have similar anti-trans sports bills in the docket.

As Lee signed a law curtailing the rights of trans people, Republican lawmakers in Tennessee advanced a bill seeking to ban LGBT-inclusive textbooks and teaching materials from schools.

To worn-down activists still reeling from the anti-trans attacks defining the Trump administration, the amount of bills this year is proving difficult to even keep track of.

While others are preparing for a long year ahead of court cases, with the American Civil Liberties Union announcing its intention to sue over the ban.

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“It is hard to keep up with the avalanche of anti-transgender bills, but please know that we will never give up fighting to protect transgender and nonbinary young people,” said Sam Brinton vice president of advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project, an LGBT+ suicide prevention charity, in a press release.

“They deserve access to the same opportunities as their peers. This discriminatory policy is illegal.”

“The Trevor Project is here 24/7 to support trans youth in Tennessee and across the country who feel hurt and invalidated by these purely political attacks.”

Why are Republicans banning trans youth from high school sports?

Bills banning trans teens from school sports, activists have been at pains to stress, are ones rarely grounded in, well, reality itself.

Republican lawmakers have often struggled to provide statistical data where an apparent issue over a trans athlete has arisen.

This is, in part, because there is no service or agency that tracks the number of trans athletes in the States.

While such a figure can be difficult to precisely pin down, a Gallup survey this year found 0.6 per cent of American adults are trans.

In fact, when two dozen state sponsors were asked by the Associated Press to provide an example, any at all, of a trans teen causing the level of mayhem they make them out to cause, the news agency said most could not “cite a single instance in their own state or region where such participation has caused problems”.

Even Tennessee’s house speaker Cameron Sexton, the outlet reported, admitted that there likely aren’t even any openly trans youth taking part in middle or high school sports.

Instead, many of those supporting the bills ignore the advice from school sporting administrators and medical experts who unequivocally say there is no problem with trans folk taking part in sports.

Around 73 per cent of Americans also support trans children participating in sports, according to a recent poll from the Human Rights Campaign, regardless of how much a hot-button issue it has been made out to be.

The frenzied moves from the GOP to stop, er, trans teens playing track and field is one that voting tacticians say is part of a nationwide drive to turn trans teens into a “wedge issue”.

In doing so, they suggested, Republicans are angling for gains in the 2022 midterms.