Bar transgender athletes from girls sports? Lawmakers say yes

Republican state Rep. Jena Powell calls her new bill the Save Women’s Sports Act, but LGBTQ advocates call it an attack on transgender youths.

Powell, of Arcanum, intends to co-sponsor a bill that would mandate the Ohio High School Athletic Association block biological male students from competing in girls’ sports. The bill hasn’t been introduced yet and a deadline for co-sponsors to sign on is Wednesday.

“Women’s rights in the field of athletics are being trampled upon when we allow high school and college biological males to compete against biological women and girls,” Powell and co-sponsor state Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus, R-Minerva, said in a joint statement. “If we want to preserve women’s rights, and the integrity of women’s sports, we must pass the Save Women’s Sports Act.”

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EqualityOhio, an LGBTQ advocacy group, says it’s wrong to single out transgender students for discrimination.

“Some in Ohio are continuing to try and take aim at transgender youth, and we will not allow it. Everybody should be able to play sports,” EqualityOhio Director Alana Jochum said. “It’s important that we affirm the importance of girls’ sports while making sure that all of our children can take advantage of the opportunities that school sports offer.”

The OHSAA adopted a transgender policy in December 2018 that allows athletes to participate on teams that match their gender identity. The policy requires athletes and their families to make a request to the school administration, which in turn gives notice to the state athletic association. The OHSAA executive director then takes action on the request.

The policy allows girls transitioning to boys to participate in boys sports. Boys transitioning to girls must have completed at least a year of hormone treatment or demonstrate to the OHSAA that they don’t have a physical advantage over genetic female athletes in the same age group.

Twenty-five states have inclusive policies for transgender high school athletes.

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Last school year, nearly 315,000 students participated in high school sports, according to the state. Data on transgender athletes participating in female sports was not immediately available.

“Look, biological men should not be competing in female sports. This is not only in Ohio, it’s a movement across the United States,” Powell said. “We’re just trying to create fairness across the board for female athletes.”

In June, three high school female track athletes in Connecticut filed a federal discrimination complaint and later a lawsuit over a statewide policy that allows transgender athletes to compete in girls sports. Two transgender athletes have won multiple Connecticut state championships in track events since the policy was adopted in 2017.

Transathlete, which advocates in favor of transgender athletes, called the complaint a dangerous attempt to “exclude and eliminate transgender people from activities with their peers. Participation in sports is an important part of students’ physical, social and emotional well-being.”

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