There has been a wave of proposed legislation across the country that would restrict transgender athletes to competing on teams that conform with their biological sex, including one bill in Michigan.
State Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, proposed Senate Bill 218 to “protect female sports.”
The bill has faced sharp criticism from the transgender community and athletic regulatory boards for discrimination.
Jay Kaplan is the LGBT project lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union here in Michigan. He says widespread legislation that impacts all students to regulate transgender students creates a problem that doesn’t exist.
“Should it pass, should it become law, already, courts have found that it not only violates Title IX, a federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, but also that this kind of legislation is unconstitutional,” Kaplan said.
Theis did not respond to a request for comment but called the bill an effort to preserve the legacy of Title IX in a statement on her website.
“Something must be done to preserve the legacy of Title IX — a staple of American society. So, very simply, my bill will ensure that, in school sports in Michigan, student athletes will compete against one another according to their biological sex,” the statement said.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association has been vocal about the problems they believe a bill barring athletes from competing based on biological sex could cause.
“We’ve said all along this legislation is unnecessary. We have a policy in place that allows us to work with schools and families on a person-to-person basis,” the MHSAA’s Director of Communications Geoff Kimmerly said.
The bill would require public schools to designate which teams athletes can join based on the athlete’s biological sex, or the “the physical condition of being male or female as determined by an individual’s chromosomes and anatomy as identified at birth,” as defined in the bill.
Last year, the MHSAA had more than 800 biologically female athletes join boys' teams due to a lack of girls programming on their campuses.
“We do not want to see those girls lose those opportunities,” Kimmerly said.
The MHSAA only receives roughly 2 requests per year to verify the eligibility of transgender athletes.
“Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, I'm going to be transgender today, so I can get on the girls team. And then hopefully, I'll be able to, you know, beat everyone else out because I've got testosterone,” said Roz Keith, the founder of Stand With Trans.
Keith founded Stand With Trans six years ago to help erase the stigma around the trans community. What started out as a space to share the resources she found for her own transgender son became an organization aimed at providing resources and support to transgender families across Michigan.
And attitudes are shifting. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they've become more supportive of transgender rights over the past several years, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.
“There are still a lot of challenges,” Keith said. “We've come a long way. But we're pedaling as fast as we can to get the resources out there and to really touch and engage as many youth as we possibly can.”
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