Legislative Attacks Against Transgender Athletes are Unethical

Transgender athletes are being put at risk by the new bill going through Iowa’s Senate


Courtesy of Carol M. Highsmith via Creative Commons

The Senate chamber at the Iowa State capitol in Des Moines.

Frances Bottorff, Reporter

The Iowa House passed a controversial bill this week. The bill, named HF 2309, explicitly states that schools that receive public funding can only open their sports to students based on their biological sex, or they must create a co-ed group. The push for this bill came from conservatives in Iowa, especially Republican Representative Skyler Wheeler from Orange City. He has made multiple transphobic comments opposing any sort of common rationality while defending this bill. “You’re displacing a biological girl in her own division and in her own sport.” Not only is this not based on any real evidence, it is very invalidating. By suggesting that sports are only for biological girls, Wheeler effectively excludes trans girls from sports, completely discrediting their identity. 

Wheeler and other Republicans in Iowa had backing from Governor Kim Reynolds. She has been pushing for this legislation for months now. She calls the situation a fairness issue, meaning that having transgender athletes compete would offer them an unfair advantage. 

Rep. Mary Mascher from Iowa City called this state-sanctioned bullying, and I completely agree.  These people cannot claim to want the best for students in Iowa and want to provide school environments that are safe for all kids. This is a direct attack on identities. These Iowa lawmakers are continuing to further exclude transgender athletes without any logical reasoning. 

For some reason there is an idea that there are men disguising themselves as women in order to compete and ultimately beat them in athletic activities. This is simply untrue. No one is “becoming” trans just to beat girls; trans people literally just want to express their identity in sports. There is no underlying or malicious intent involved. There is no threat to Iowa girls right now. There are no boys purposely trying to compete in women’s sports. If anything, the scariest thing threatening Iowa girls sports is the bill that is being put into place. 

Many argue that transgender women will dominate their sports and compete at a higher level than cisgender people. States like Connecticut have found that the transgender policy they had in place violated Title IX. At the collegiate level there has also been conflict regarding gender identity and sports. University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas has faced a lot of controversy in order to compete for the women’s team. Thomas is a transgender woman who was on the men’s team for the beginning of her college career. This year she started swimming on the women’s team after completing two years of hormone therapy. Sixteen of her own teammates sent a letter to the school and officials asking that they not take legal action against the new NCAA policy. The NCAA policy states that each sport should determine the eligibility of transgender athletes. This basically allows each school to set their own policy per sport. In the letter from UPenn swimmers they described her as taking “competitive opportunities.”  If colleges want to implement hormonal testing or follow the NCAA policy, they can debate that. But, I don’t think those kinds of rules should be forced upon high school sports. 

The years kids spend in high school are formative to who they become, and there should be no penalties for transgender athletes wanting to participate in sports. If students want to live in the gender identity that they are, they should not have to either sit out or form co-ed groups. They do not deserve to be sidelined. High school is a time to try different activities, and put yourself out there. It is egregiously unethical to stop students from wanting to try something new because their identity is different from yours and/or the one they were born with. By not allowing them to be who they are, Iowa Republicans are further isolating them from their communities and will end up hurting them in permanent ways. 

Transgender people, especially teenagers, already face so many mental health crises due to consistent questioning of their identity. It is no secret that the rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide are much higher for transgender teenagers compared to their cisgendered peers. They are constantly being discriminated against, and now they cannot even compete in the sport they are passionate about. 

The Iowa City Community School District posted an announcement on their Instagram page in support of trans youth. “Our district has in place one of the most robust policies in the country to protect our LBTQ+ youth. This proposed bill will not detract us from our commitment to ensure every member of our school community is valued and respected regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation.” 

In an opinion piece for the Des Moines Register, Liberty Senior Ashlyn Keeney said it best, “I would rather be beaten by a transgender girl at a high school meet than for her to be excluded from the sport she loves.”