Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed Monday a bill that would allow him to be the Texas Governor ban K-12 transgender students from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity — the first such bill to become law in the state, after dozens of similar billsThese were debated and passed during three special legislative sessions.
This bill is the state’s first piece of antitrans legislation in Texas that has been made law in recent years. The state’s effort to restrict trans Texans’ bathroom usage failed to reach the governor’s deskIn 2017, after a similar intense special session. Texas is the ninth state to pass legislation restricting trans athletes’ participation in school sports this year.
LGBTQ+ advocates are concerned about the bill’s immediate aftermath, which could make trans students in interscholastic sport subject to harassment and scrutiny. There is also the possibility that similar bills targeting trans youth could become law in Texas if another special sessions is called.
“It’s just panic right now … people trying to understand what exactly this looks like,” said Emmett Schelling, executive director for the Transgender Education Network of Texas.
More families have been reaching out to the organization than usual to ask how their child could be impacted by the law, especially parents with kids who had previously planned to participate in school sports and trans kids who aren’t totally out at school, Schelling said.
He described feeling “just the overall dread of not knowing how we can really calculate what the impact and the harm, outcome, will be.”
The new law requires schools to identify athletes based on the sex noted on their birth certificate either at the time of birth, or soon after it — which would force trans students to compete on teams that do not match their current gender identity. Texas’ regulatory body for high school athletics had previously allowed students to competeBelow are the most recent birth certificates.
How schools would enforce the law — by determining whether a child’s birth certificate has been updated because of a clerical error, or because they have updated their gender marker — is unclear, and likely open to interpretation from district to district.
Schools upholding the new law could also be vulnerable to lawsuits, in part because of the potential variation in enforcement among the roughly 1,200 Texas school districts, said Adri Pèrez, a policy and advocacy strategist for the ACLU based in Austin, Texas.
“There has been debate since this bill was first filed about what the enforcement mechanism would be,” they said. “It would open it up so that anybody could bring a gender challenge against another student because of their athletic performance, and/or appearance.”
The ACLU is still exploring legal options for mounting a lawsuit against the bill, Pèrez said. The lawsuit was brought by civil rights groups over a West Virginia law that targeted trans athletes and was in effect this year. The law was repealed. temporarily blocked by a federal judgeJuly
Even before the passage of Texas’ law targeting K-12 sports, the debate over anti-trans bills has caused increased bullying and mental health crises across the state, advocates say.
Since anti-trans bills began to be debated at the start of the year, Equality Texas has gotten many more reports of bullying and harassment against LGBTQ+ students than they did last year when they first began tracking the incidents, said Ricardo Martinez, the group’s chief executive.
One example is a Royse City pansexual freshman who claimed she was harassed by a student at lunch who sprayed her with holy water. Another is a trans middle schooler from the greater Austin area who attempted to end her life after being bullied.
“It is a marked difference from last year,” Martinez said.
The Trevor Project stated last month that crisis calls and texts from LGBTQ+ youthTexas’s population has grown by over 150 percent compared to the same period in 2020. Some trans and nonbinary teens surveyed said they felt stressed and were considering suicide due to anti-LGBTQ laws currently being debated in Texas.
Advocates have warned repeatedly that rhetoric surrounding the billsTexas has the following: devolved into arguments over what “transgender” and “cisgender” mean, could also spur violent and potentially deadly attacks against trans people — although more research is needed to understand a direct link.
There is no evidence that trans people pose a threat to the safety of sports teams in many states where antitrans bills have been introduced. even playing sports at allIn some states.
Arkansas is an example. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson compared the state’s sports bill and the state’s effort to ban gender-affirming care for minors — the latter of which he opposed — as a theoretical fight vs. a fight that could have real consequences for trans kids.
Hutchinson acknowledged in May that “no one has cited an example of where trans athletes have tried to compete [in the state]” — as did West Virginia Gov. Jim JusticeWhen asked for examples of trans athletes attempting to gain an unfair advantage in sports, April,
Texas’ third special session has ended, Abbott has shot down callsFrom within his partyThe fourth session will be held in 2019, and the next regular legislative session will begin in 2023. Fears of trans kids being again named a priority in Texas’s legislature persist.
“I think we can likely expect more anti-trans bills given the current leadership,” Schelling told The 19thText is preferred.
In a statement that could also signal the future of anti-trans bills in Texas, Abbott reportedlyAt a, supporters were promised a Kingwood Tea Party meeting on Tuesday night that laws targeting trans youth will be advanced in “every single session that we have.” The governor’s office declined to comment and Abbott’s campaign office did not respond to a request for comment.
Other bills previously introduced in Texas across this year’s special sessions have aimed to classify gender-affirming treatments like hormones and surgeries as child abuse and ban puberty blockers provided by a physician. Some of these bills were killed in the House, while others were reintroduced at the third special session, but they did not move forward.
Two issues are top of mind for advocates if the governor again lists bills targeting trans youth as a priority: efforts to restrict people’s ability to update gender markers on birth certificates and bans on gender-affirming care for minors.
“We have also seen that his supporters have expressed desire for the sports ban to also begin to encroach into collegiate level sports,” Schelling said via text, referencing a reported Q&ADuring the Kingwood Tea Party meeting. “I wouldn’t rule anything out.”
While many states have introduced bills to provide gender-affirming care for trans teens, almost every anti-trans bill that was actually passed this year has been related to sports. Arkansas’ law criminalizing gender-affirming care for minors was temporarily blocked by a judgeAs the state, he was still in the courtrooms as of July appealedSeptember’s injunction
In contrast, birth certificates have been at the core of debate surrounding the new law on K-12 sports in Texas — and some lawmakers, like Republican state Sen. Charles Perry, have previously introduced bills that would keep minors from updating their birth certificatesMatch their gender identity.
Vivian Topping, director of advocacy and civic engagement at the Equality Federation, a coalition of statewide LGBTQ+ organizations, said that efforts to target birth certificates are what she’s most concerned about right now, alongside health care and athlete bans being brought across more states.
“Anti-trans attacks are not going away and they’ll continue in whatever form our opponents can create,” she said over text.
Although the Equality Federation hasn’t tracked bills solely focused on birth certificates in its state legislation trackerTopping estimated that only a handful have been introduced in the United States this year.
“We have seen that in other states before … so I can see where the fear would come with these athlete bans,” she said.
Martinez expressed concern that Texas’s passage of its first anti-transmission bill could influence the way other states press the issue.
“It’s a huge deal,” Martinez said. “I’m afraid of what’s going to happen when other state legislatures begin pre-filing bills.”
Schelling stated that even though it can seem dark, Schelling must believe that the movement is moving forward.
“I think for me to keep doing this work, I can’t tell myself that it’s never going to end. I know that we’ve seen progress, even in the midst of this,” he said, pointing to the hundreds of people — including trans Texans and their families — who have traveled to the state capitolMultiple times this year, to testify against the bills.
Rev. Remington Johnson said that she was proud of the work that advocates have done in the past year as Texas has introduced the most antitrans bills in the country.
“We did everything we could to stop, slow down or amend these bills,” Johnson said. “Only a single one got through.”
Although the fight doesn’t feel like it’s over for some parents and trans Texans in the state, after months of testimony left them exhausted, a brief reprieve is expected.