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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

TOKYO — While transgender inclusion in elite sports presents some challenging issues, bans on participation in youth sports are simply about hate and cruelty, several top trans athletes told Axios this week.

The big picture: Lawmakers in more than half of the states have considered such bans, and they have been signed into law in at least eight states, though legal challenges remain.

  • Republican governors in South Dakota and Louisiana vetoed such bans, and several states have voted down or failed to act on proposed legislation.

"It’s absolutely sickening," Chelsea Wolfe, an alternate to the Tokyo Games and the first transgender woman to travel to the Olympics for Team USA, told Axios. "It just breaks my heart and I can’t imagine what kind of monsters do that to children."

  • Such bans may score easy political points, but come at a huge cost to the health and well-being of trans youth, these athletes say.
  • "This has become the next political weapon," openly trans and nonbinary WNBA player Layshia Clarendon told Axios.
  • Clarendon noted that many of the states discussing such bans have no current transgender athletes even participating, and in no instance are states seeing girls' sports dominated by transgender athletes.

Between the lines: Athletes say the bans also miss the point of youth sports, which isn't about the small fraction of kids who go on to play competitive in college or turn pro, but rather the benefits they confer to all those participating.

  • Clarendon said even if they had not become a professional athlete, sports gave them a place to belong.
  • "You are supposed to just play sports and have fun," Clarendon said.

The other side: Some supporters of the bans insist they're needed to promote fair competition, arguing that biological differences make it unfair for non-transgender women and girls to compete against transgender athletes who were identified as boys at birth.

  • "This bill is very simply about making sure that women can safely compete, have opportunities and physically be able to excel in a sport that they trained for, prepared for and work for," said Florida state Sen. Kelli Stargel, a supporter of the ban DeSantis signed into law, per NPR.

What they're saying: Chris Mosier, a distance runner who was the first transgender member of Team USA when he represented the country in duathlon (running and cycling), told Axios that "it is heartbreaking for me as an athlete who has represented my country internationally in sport to see that a younger version of me would be banned from playing."

  • "This is about so much more than sports; it’s about health care and identification cards and housing and employment and our abilities to live safe and happy lives. Lawmakers are starting with sports, but it seems very clear that the end goal is to try to prevent transgender people from living in public."

Wolfe notes that opponents of transgender civil rights focus on youth sports because they know that while elite sports are grappling with the issue, they are relying on experts and research.

  • "So they go after the legislatures who kind of go off their knee-jerk reactions instead of science," Wolfe said.

Of note: This year's Olympics includes at least four openly trans or nonbinary athletes, a first for the Games even though rules have allowed for transgender participation since 2003.

  • Laurel Hubbard, a New Zealand weightlifter, is set to become the first openly transgender woman to take part in Olympic competition when she takes part in the over-87-kilogram competition later on Monday.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Tokyo Paralympics kick off amid COVID state of emergency

Three torchbearers wave after lighting the cauldron during the opening ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 24, 2021. Photo: Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images

The Tokyo Paralympics officially began on Tuesday as athletes representing 162 countries and a delegation of refugees processed in the parade of nations before the cauldron was lit.

Driving the news: The opening ceremony for the 16th Summer Paralympics took place in a spectator-less stadium and featured a smaller number of athletes compared to years prior as COVID-19 restrictions prohibit athletes from entering the Paralympic Village until five days before their competitions, per the New York Times.

At least 3 dead after Amtrak train derails in Montana

Photo: Jacob Cordeiro/Twitter

An Amtrak train derailed near Joplin, Montana, resulting in at least three deaths and multiple injuries to passengers and crew on Saturday, per authorities and a company statement.

The big picture: 141 passengers and 16 crew members were estimated to be on the Empire Builder train, traveling from Chicago to Seattle and Portland, when eight of the 10 cars derailed about 4p.m., Amtrak said early Sunday.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Federal judge blocks vaccine mandate for NYC teachers

Students are dismissed from the first day of school at PS 133 in Brooklyn on Sept. 13. Photo: Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty Images

A federal appeals court is set to hear a challenge Wednesday to a vaccine mandate planned for New York City school employees.

Why it matters The vaccine mandate was set to begin on Monday, prompting concerns over staffing shortages in schools across the nation's largest school system. But a judge on Friday temporarily blocked the measure, per AP.

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