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How Conservative Politicians Are Scapegoating Trans Athletes

How Conservative Politicians Are Scapegoating Trans Athletes

A slew of hateful legislation takes aim at athletes only seeking to compete.

This year has seen an unprecedented attack on transgender student-athletes, orchestrated by right-wing activists and their allies among elected officials. More than 70 bills have been introduced in more than 30 state legislatures around the nation that aim to prevent trans students from competing in school sports under their gender identity. While some of the bills deal with trans males as well as females, it's really trans women and girls who are the target, based on the mistaken assumption that they have an inherent and unfair advantage over their cisgender counterparts. So supporters of such legislation are framing it as "protecting" women's sports, even though these activists and politicians have never been champions of women's rights.

These bills have been passed by legislators and signed into law by governors this year in seven Republican-dominated states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The Republican governor of South Dakota has issued executive orders to the same effect (one dealing with K-12 public schools, the other with state colleges and universities). Idaho enacted its law in 2020; it is being challenged in court, as is West Virginia's law.

There is some good news -- trans-exclusionary sports bills have been vetoed by Democratic governors in Kansas and Louisiana, and by a Republican governor in North Dakota. In Utah, such legislation died after the Republican governor spoke out against it.

And the 2021 legislative sessions in some states have ended without these harmful bills passing. But the situation still merits vigilance. It's worthwhile to connect with local and national civil rights groups to take action against these bills and support court challenges.

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