To Play or Not to Play: Florida Officials Say It Depends on Gender

Mason Hagarty and Alyssa Hafford

How would you feel if a teacher demanded that you lift your shirt or pull down your pants just so you could play a sport? For transgender athletes in Florida, this may become a reality thanks to a bill that recently passed the Florida House of Representatives and landed on the state Senate’s floor. 


According to the political publication The Hill, the bill, titled “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” “bans transgender female athletes from competing on women’s athletic teams in both high school and college sports, although transgender male athletes may still compete on either team.”


Transgender people are those whose, despite their assigned sex at birth based on genitals, “own internal gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth,” as defined by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).


GLAAD goes on to point out that “a transgender identity is not dependent upon physical appearance or medical procedures.”


Transgender people do not always take steps to alter their physical appearance, sometimes referred to as “transitioning.” A variety of reasons play into making that decision including financial ability to pay for the medical services required, fear of surgery, or unwanted side effects from hormonal therapy. 


None of these reasons, though, changes who they believe they, at their very core, believe to be.


Unfortunately, Florida isn’t the only state taking on the issue of whether or not transgender athletes can play on the team they believe matches their gender identity. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem recently issued a pair of executive orders addressing the same matter and limiting transgender athletes to the team that aligns with their biological identity.


According to the Associated Press (AP) “Republican governors in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee signed similar measures into law.”


These laws could mean a potential decline in transgender kids’ mental states. Being “suspected” of identifying as a transgender kid could mean sexual harassment, which would go against the Fourteenth Amendment. 


Could you imagine being denied a spot on a sports team just because you are trans? This is what these government officials fail to realize, how it makes trans youth feel. Upon hearing the parents of trans kids’ pleas, the government officials still vote for it. Transgender youth are those who are suffering, not the cisgender girls on teams.


Another thing they fail to realize is the defense of “unfair advantages,” which has not even been proven. Imagine someone using their identity to gain an unfair advantage. We should simply monitor that possibility (which really wouldn’t happen) rather than leave a large number of kids even more uncomfortable, and do something that invalidates their identity.


This notion is echoed by Dr. Eric Vilain, in an article by NPR, in which he says: “The question is whether there is in real life, during actual competitions, an advantage of performance linked to this male hormone and whether trans athletes are systematically winning all competitions. The answer to this latter question, are trans athletes winning everything, is simple — that’s not the case. And higher levels of the male hormone testosterone are associated with better performance only in a very small number.”


As seen with the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” these officials have no regard for trans kids. No one is forcing you to understand them, they just ask for the same respect and treatment that cisgender athletes get. It is simply not fair that transgender athletes are subjected to this treatment.


Another aspect of the bill is the ability to check whether a child is trans or not. The bill is disgusting in its entirety, but subjecting trans athletes to “genital checks” crosses the line. Dr. Eric Vilain on the same topic says: “In the field of sports, there’s a long history of discrimination that targets women that look different. . . I’m a little disturbed to hear that these issues at the elite level are now reaching the middle and high schools and colleges.”


This is not a debate over trans people, Republicans, conservatism, or religion. It is simply the right of a transgender athlete to play on a team, and get the same respect cisgender people get. It is sad that this is still debated. If this bill goes into effect, it will further reinforce negative stereotypes of trans people, and affect many kids’ sports experiences. 

(Gender Portraits)