Alabama Governor Kay Ivey recently signed a bill banning transgender women from participating in female sports in all public schools. Part of the text (officially Alabama’s House Bill 391) reads, “A public K-12 school may not allow a biological female to participate on a male team if there is a female team (available to them)… ”
The theory is that allowing transgender women to compete against ciswomen is allowing genetic men to compete against women. Those who support House Bill 391 (HB 391) claim that transgender girls have the upper hand because of the assumption that biological males are bigger, faster, and stronger than biological females. Therefore, this gives transgender women an unfair advantage in women’s sports since they possess a naturally superior body for sports.
Alanna Smith, a high school track athlete from Connecticut, filed a lawsuit against transgender athletes in women’s sports. She hopes to restore fairness in sports and bring awareness about men displacing women. She said, “We train for so many days a week, so many hours to be able to be the best in our state and the best in our region, and these biological males are just taking it away from us and we really deserve it.”
HB 391 is supposed to even out the playing field by protecting the integrity of females. It requires transgender students attending public K-12 schools to participate in sports teams that align with their gender at birth, Insider reports. The Alabama Senate voted in favor of the bill 25 to five and the House passed the bill by a vote total of 74 to 19.
Despite all of the national backlash, Scott Stadthagen, a member of the Alabama’s House of Representatives, commented, “I want to thank Governor Ivey for her leadership and for protecting the rights of Alabama’s female athletes.” Stadthagen also said, “I feel sorry for the kids you’re talking about, I really do … But what about the females who have worked since they started at 4 years old, and they get to high school and all their dreams and scholarships yanked before their eyes?” Republican Senator Garlan Gudger made a similar statement during the Senate debate saying it is, “unfair for biological males to compete and beat females in high school sports.”
Opposition to the bill claims that it is not creating an inclusive environment for all women. They argue that transgender mistreatment is deeply embedded in systematic policy, and that HB 391 is the latest encroachment. “HB 391 is nothing more than a politically motivated bill designed to discriminate against an already vulnerable population. By signing this legislation, Gov. Ivey is forcefully excluding transgender children. Let’s be clear here: transgender children are children. They deserve the same opportunity to learn valuable skills of teamwork, sportsmanship, and healthy competition with their peers,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Alphonso David.
Many other organizations have come out in opposition to the bill. The American Civil Liberties Union claims that this only hurts women more by creating a deeper gender divide by reinforcing “stereotypes that women are weak and in need of protection.” The Alabama state director of the HRC, Carmarion D. Anderson, believes this bill will hurt the LGBTQ community. She points to the fact that members of the community are seen as “outcasts” in society, and that this bill will only cause more harm. Anderson stated, “Trans kids are kids. They deserve every opportunity like every other kid to play the sport they identify in.”
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) released a statement in regards to transgender athletes stating that, “We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants.” Being the largest sanctioning body for collegiate sports in the country – with around 1,300 institutions aligning themselves with the NCAA – their word matters. ESPN has reported that transgender women can compete in women’s sports, but that the NCAA requires them to have lower testosterone levels through a drug treatment.
Coaches, athletes, and politicians will all be weighing in on this controversial topic. Many lawmakers across the nation have proposed similar bills. Although Alabama is the most recent state to make such a change, we may see more states following.