Trans athletes deserve better from our society.
That’s been my takeaway from the last few years. As some people press to bar all trans athletes from competing as their gender — focused mostly on keeping trans girls and women from girls’ and women’s sports — the full-on push to ban them has been excessive and unnecessary.
For some behind this push, ignorance is at play. Stereotypes. For others, there seems to be a healthy dose of spite involved.
The latest is from the state of Florida and Gov. Ron Desantis, whose ban on trans athletes from competing in the gender category with which they identify has caused a stir.
As well it should.
To formalize a ban on trans athletes is bad enough, but to do it on the first day of Pride month is a slap in the face, in addition to the ban’s kick to the stomach.
When I started my work in the LGBTQ community 15-plus years ago, there was an open conversation about whether the gay-rights movement should include trans people.
We long ago decided the answer was a resounding “YES!”
That remains today. While some politicians look to divide the LGBTQ community as they split apart Americans, it’s not happening. We’re adding more colors to the Pride flag, not taking them away.
The stories of trans people are being uplifted, and national LGBTQ groups are training their focus on protecting trans athletes from these insidious bills.
The LGBTQ community, parents and friends have joined together to collectively stop some states from taking the step that Florida legislators — mostly Republicans with a couple of Democrats — and Desantis, a Republican, have taken in Florida.
To be sure, the wave of anti-trans sentiment been building this year. Florida is one of eight states to pass anti-trans-athlete bills in 2021 alone. Plus so many other states are considering or passing laws that further restrict trans rights and liberties.
Yet Desantis signing the bill into law on June 1 seems to be intentionally throwing salt on our community’s wounds, spiking the ball in our collective faces.
How trans girls and women are included in girls and women’s sports is an important conversation for all of us to have. Different organizations, advocates and experts have forged different policies, ranging from Connecticut’s oft-cited policy allowing a trans girl to participate in high school sports at any point, to other policies requiring some form of medical transition. I’ll be reporting more on this in the coming days.
Thoughtful, inclusive-minded people in and out of the LGBTQ community have arrived at different conclusions as well, based on various factors like the age of the competitor, level of the competition, sport and other elements of an athlete’s participation.
We can have smart disagreements on how to include trans athletes.
Yet what I’ve said over and over is that WHETHER to include trans athletes should not be up for debate. It’s unnecessary and cruel. Over the years I’ve had lots of questions about how to include trans athletes. Whether to include them is clearly a false choice.
Pride month is celebrated across the sports world as four-plus weeks of rainbows and inclusion. Major professional sports, college sports, and athletes at all levels of athletics embrace ideas of inclusion, participation and sportsmanship during this wonderful celebratory month.
To have politicians slap the community in the face with a bill restricting LGBTQ access to sports is intentionally cruel.
I look forward to the future Pride month when we can say good-bye to the last of these trans-exclusion bans.