If you follow trans rights and trans news regularly, you’ll likely experience a number of ups and downs when it comes to good news versus bad news. Republicans are pretty much always at the helm of pushing violent, dangerous anti-trans ideologies and bills, including access to sports, health care, and even bathrooms and locker rooms. While some trans people (of all ages) have relatively accessible, safe, and affordable health care and protections in housing and the workforce, other trans folks just across state lines are quietly planning escape routes in the face of discriminatory laws.
An interesting example comes to us out of Utah. Daily Kos recently covered the disturbing story of a student-athlete whose gender identity was investigated after the parents of competitors she beat accused her of being transgender because she isn’t “feminine” enough. The student was eventually determined to be a cis girl based on her school enrollment records, but the entire situation (and the law that allows this to happen) is obviously horrifying.
And in the very same state, as of Friday, Aug. 19, trans youth will technically be able to participate in sports that align with their gender identity in this coming school year—but they’ll have to appeal before a panel of political appointees on a case-by-case basis first, per the Associated Press.
As has been happening across the country, Republicans have been trying to make an example out of marginalized trans youth by hyping up the “issue” of trans girls competing on girls’ sports teams. In Utah specifically, only one openly trans athlete was known to the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAS), as reported by The Guardian, but this doesn’t stop conservatives from using the current rhetoric as a means of punishing vulnerable people.
There is no number of trans athletes that would make these legislations fair or justified, but it’s especially outrageous that so many conservatives make these violently anti-trans efforts without actually speaking to a trans student or finding even one concrete instance of a trans girl “unfairly” beating their cis competition. It’s all hyperbole and panic, not facts.
Back in May, the families of three trans students filed a lawsuit to challenge the anti-trans ban. The suit argues that the law is a violation of the state constitution’s guarantee of equal rights and due process. And as of Friday, Judge Keith Kelly moved to pause the ban until legal challenges are resolved.
So, what happens instead? Well, things are still far from great in the state of Utah. Trans girls who want to play on girls’ teams will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine their eligibility. Who determines this? A commission created by Republican lawmakers and filled with political appointees.
The panel will be tasked with deciding if the individual trans girl before them has an unfair advantage because of their gender identity, and they’ll be allowed to consider factors like height and weight.
Obviously, such an experience is sure to be humiliating, traumatizing, and frankly, confusing and ripe for hypocrisy and double standards. Is it an improvement from an outright ban? I don’t know. But I do know that trans kids deserve to have fair, equal access to sports and activities like their peers, and that othering and ostracizing already ostracized people is cruel.
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