Feb 25, 2022 - News

Bill limiting trans students' sports participation passes Georgia Senate

Illustration of a soccer ball with the patches colored in light pink and blue, similar to the transgender flag.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

State Senators on Thursday passed legislation that requires students to play on teams that match their assigned sex at birth.

Why it matters: This means transgender students would not be allowed to play on sport teams that match their gender identity.

What they’re saying: Republican Sen. Marty Harbin, the bill’s chief sponsor, said his legislation “is about fairness” and that it’s not fair for students who are born female to compete with students who are born male.

Opponents of such bills have pushed back on their stated motivations. Trans and nonbinary WNBA player Layshia Clarendon previously told Axios that many states don’t have transgender students participating in sports and have not seen any examples of transgender athletes dominating girls’ sports."

Of note: A similar bill did not advance last year, after skepticism from House Speaker David Ralston. Ralston has not commented on this latest bill.

The other side: Democratic Sen. Michelle Au, a physician, said the legislation would lead to discrimination against transgender students, who she said face higher rates of suicidality.

  • According to the Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 52% of transgender and nonbinary youth surveyed have considered taking their own lives.
  • “We are talking about children here,” she said. “We are talking about a bill that increases risk, stigmatizes and endangers children.”

Zoom out: 2021 saw a record number of anti-trans bills introduced in state legislatures. On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state agencies to investigate gender-affirming care for transgender children as child abuse.

  • Medical experts and doctors fear an increase in mental health crises among transgender kids due to the dozens of bills introduced to criminalize gender-affirming health care.

The debate over the legislation took a personal turn when Sen. Sally Harrell spoke about her experience of being the mother of a transgender child.

  • The Democratic senator said the legislation is “sloppy,” and that she and her child believe more recreational sports are needed in high school because so many students are excluded for various reasons.
  • “I just want this to stop because this feels premature, and this feels judgmental,” she said.

What’s next: The bill now moves to the state House for consideration.

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