The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Angela Hill, claimed that she’s had “had numerous coaches across the state call me and believe that they feel there’s a need for a policy in Mississippi because they are beginning to have some concerns of having to deal with this.” She did not clarify how many openly transgender athletes are actually playing on teams or competing in the state, or on how many occasions this scenario has actually posed an issue for anyone.
Nevertheless, Mississippi’s bill is particularly concerning, as we know that the state’s governor, Republican Tate Reeves, tweeted about President Joe Biden’s trans-inclusive executive order on discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation back in February. Using common anti-trans rhetoric and hysteria building, Reeves tweeted his concern that allowing trans girls to compete on the girls’ team would take away from cisgender athletes and create an unfair advantage.
After describing how hard his three daughters work and practice their respective sports, Reeves expressed his disappointment in Biden’s inclusive policy. As seen below, Reeves insisted on describing trans women as “biological males.”
In the following tweet, he used another anti-trans buzzword: “transgenderism.” He tweeted: “I don’t understand why politicians are pushing children into transgenderism in the first place. I certainly don’t understand why the President chose to make it a priority. And my heart breaks for the young women across America who will lose in this radical social experiment.”
Of course, politicians are not “pushing” people into being transgender. Nor are cisgender women losing anything by transgender women and girls having equal rights, protections, and opportunities. Reeves’s daughters probably do work hard, and probably do deserve every chance to succeed and grow, just like any number of cisgender girls. And trans girls also deserve those chances.
There’s also what we know about life for trans folks, both as youth and as adults. Transgender youth face higher rates of bullying and harassment, have a higher likelihood of leaving high school without a diploma, and are more likely to live with anxiety and depression than their cisgender peers. Transgender adults report disproportionately high rates of homelessness and employment and housing discrimination, among a terrifying rate of gender-based violence.
Sports, of course, do not solve systemic and structural inequality and violence. But sports do provide a safe community space where people can get a sense of belonging, pride, develop skills, and may serve as support or motivation to stay in school or pursue long-term dreams and goals. Basically: Sports and competitions can help transgender youth develop just as much as they can help cisgender youth. This should be obvious, but sadly, a lot of anti-trans rhetoric suggests that transgender folks are essentially trying to be sneaky when in reality, they’re simply trying to play on the right team: the one that matches their actual gender identity, whether or not archaic measures like genetic makeup match that.
”If legislators would simply listen to medical experts and transgender athletes, they might know that transitioning for the sake of a competitive advantage is simply unrealistic,” Rob Hill, the Human Rights Campaign Mississippi state director, said in a press release as reported by CNN. “So is the idea that transgender athletes even gain a supposed advantage in the first place.”
You can watch a clip from the Senate session below. You’ll note that in introducing the bill, Rep. Hill describes it as “pretty simple,” when in fact, it’s anything but.
The bill now advances to the Mississippi House of Representatives.