If you’re wondering how Republicans are justifying such anti-trans legislation, Hutchinson explained himself in a statement. In reference to the law, he said it says “female athletes should not have to compete in a sport against a student of the male sex when the sport is designed for women’s competition.” Of course, as we know, trans girls are girls, not males. Relying on sex assigned at birth instead of gender identity is fundamentally inaccurate. Still, Hutchinson argued that the law will “promote and maintain fairness in women’s sporting events.” Fairness would mean allowing all girls—whether transgender or cisgender—to compete on a team that matches their gender identity.
Holly Dickson, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, described the law as “discriminatory” and a “shameful attempt by politicians to stigmatize and exclude transgender teens,” which is, of course, precisely what these bills intend to achieve.
Mind you, Republicans are making time to push these bills during a literal global pandemic. People are worried about keeping their homes, their health, and their economic security. Meanwhile, Republicans across the country are trying to fan the fire and bolster attention on what is, at minimum, a non-issue, and at maximum, dangerous rhetoric that could lead to violence and exclusion for transgender folks.
In a statement, Eric Reece, the Human Rights Campaign Arkansas State Director said as much, noting that the governor would have been “wise to focus his efforts on caring for and protecting Arkansans from COVID-19 and its economic fallout. Instead, this bill will likely create economic headaches for the state when Arkansans need help the most.” Reece stressed that transgender youth will be hurt by his actions, which, sadly, is almost certainly true.
Reece is far from the only person worried about how transgender youth will fare under these discriminatory measures. For example, the vice president of advocacy and government affairs at the non-profit organization the Trevor Project, Sam Brinton, described these bills as “appalling” in a statement. Brinton stressed that “Lawmakers should be focusing on real problems like economic hardship and the deadly pandemic, not making life harder than it already is to be transgender in America.”
As Daily Kos has highlighted in the past, it is very, very hard to be transgender in the United States. Studies show that transgender folks (and especially transgender people of color) are more likely to face violence as adults, including sexual assault. We also know that transgender people report discrimination in employment and housing. As youth, transgender people report higher levels of bullying and harassment and are more likely to leave school without a diploma than their cisgender peers.
It makes sense, then, when Stella Keating, an openly transgender teenager who bravely spoke at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for the Equality Act earlier this March, said that her trans peers are just trying to socialize and form bonds, like most other young athletes. “I can tell you the majority of transgender people who join sports just want to hang out with their friends,” she told the committee. And even if they wanted to be star athletes, that should never be a problem.