‘Boys Are Boys and Girls Are Girls’: Idaho Is First State to Bar Some Transgender Athletes


Idaho’s law, however, is a blanket ban on the participation of transgender girls in sports.

The law includes a provision that allows for anyone to file a claim questioning the sex of an athlete. The adjudication process could lead to sex testing that would allow for genital exams, genetic testing and hormone testing. “They can have a DNA test to determine chromosomes, and those tests are as cheap as $50,” Representative Ehardt said. “And again, if there are questions beyond that, there are hormone, urine and blood tests that are much more common.”

Intersex athletes, individuals born with a range of sex characteristics, would also be subject to added scrutiny. “If there was a situation such as that, that person’s doctor would no doubt already be familiar and already be in a position to solve and indicate if the DNA was not a female,” Representative Ehardt continued. She called such a hypothetical situation a “rare, rare, rare case.”

Studies have suggested that 1.7 percent of the population has intersex traits.

There have been a record number of bills placing restrictions on transgender people nationwide since the beginning of the year. A bill similar to Idaho’s was introduced in Arizona, only to see a genital testing provision dropped before the bill was passed in the Arizona House in early March. The practice of gender verification testing has been banned by the International Olympic Committee since 1999.

Kathy Griesmyer, a policy strategist at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Idaho chapter, said the testing provision not only discriminated against transgender youth, but also opened the door for widespread abuse. “There is now a law you can use to attack any successful female athlete,” she said, noting that exact guidelines of these processes are not yet clear. “And to think this is about helping girls, when we know it’s subjecting girls to an invasive examination of their bodies at a vulnerable time of their development.”

Lindsay Hecox, a first-year student at Boise State University and a former high school track and cross-country runner, said the bill further “others,” or marginalizes, transgender athletes like herself.

“I’m just a simple college student who just wants to run and doesn’t want to have my rights taken away,” she said, adding that she is taking the year off from competitive running to focus on transitioning. “Being trans shouldn’t make me a big news story, it shouldn’t make a spectacle. I’m just a normal person.”

A recent survey found that 12 percent of transgender girls and 14 percent of transgender boys play team sports compared with the national average of 68 percent of all youth. When states enact policies that create barriers for transgender athletes, the number of all L.G.B.T.Q. athletes in youth sports further declines.


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