As COVID-19 death toll hits milestone, GOP lawmakers in South Carolina focus on girls’ sports

As COVID-19 death toll hits milestone, GOP lawmakers in South Carolina focus on girls’ sports

If the growing number of anti-trans bills aimed at excluding transgender girls and women from sports are beginning to blur together, that makes a lot of sense. Why? Because—especially in the last few months, much less the last few years—there are a stunning number of them coming from all around the country. GOP lawmakers at the state level are desperate to push anti-trans legislation, and those measures tend to focus on two areas: First, trying to criminalize physicians who provide gender-affirming care like hormonal treatments to transgender youth; and second, trying to bar transgender youth from playing on the correct sports team. There’s also a growing movement to bar transgender folks of all ages from changing the sex listed on their birth certificate. 

Our latest example comes from the South Carolina House. H.B.3477 went to the Special Laws subcommittee on Tuesday. Because a number of people signed up to give testimony (on both sides of the issue), the committee did not actually vote today. Let’s break down the details of the bill, and some of the extremely moving testimonies, below.

Like similar bills, the Save Women’s Sports Act would bar transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams in middle or high school. This bill would apply to both public schools and private schools that compete against public schools. The bill text specifies that sex would be determined based on genetics and anatomy at the time of birth.

State Rep. Ashley Trantham of Greenville is the primary sponsor of the bill. Trantham, like many others pushing anti-trans legislation, incorrectly argued that allowing trans girls to play on girls’ teams would take opportunities from (cisgender) women. Trantham argues that schools can use a student athlete’s physical exam to determine their sex. 

More than 40 physicians signed an open letter opposing the bill. Of those, Dr. Elizabeth Mack, MD, as reported by South Carolina United, said in part, “This bill says to our trans youth, not just those interested in sports, a population already struggling through this pandemic: ‘We do not support you.’”

Mack discussed seeing “far too many” suicide attempts and completions during her career, and noted that the LGBTQ community is “at particular risk.” In terms of COVID-19, Mack, who works in a pediatric intensive care unit, added that the pandemic “has laid bare the inequities in our society.”

Eli Bundy, a 16-year-old transgender teenager who uses they/them pronouns, gave a brave testimony at the hearing that also discussed the potential mental health fallout of such legislation. As reported by South Carolina United, Bundy said in part, “I am both disappointed and unsurprised that young people such as myself are being told by our state legislature that we are not equal to cisgender students, that we do not deserve equal treatment under the law, and that we are a threat to the lives and livelihoods of other students.” 

Bundy discussed data from the Trevor Project, including the disproportionately high rates of mental health struggles and suicide attempts in transgender youth. They movingly encouraged committee members to “please consider the lives of transgender youth that you are putting in danger” when voting on the bill. Because, lest people try to forget, this issue is about more than semantics, a trophy, or a difference of perspective—it’s about people’s literal lives. 

South Carolina state Sen. Richard Cash, also a Republican, is the primary sponsor of a similar bill in the state’s Senate. That bill is pending action in the Education Committee. 

If you’re trying to figure out where to start when it comes to supporting transgender youth, check out our guide on using gender-neutral pronouns, tips about allyship, and a roundup of free mental health resources. 

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