A number of states have introduced legislation that would require transgender athletes to compete as the gender on their birth certificate.
Georgia is one of several states, including Tennessee, Washington and Missouri, going through the process, as Republican Philip Singleton filed House Bill 747 on Dec. 19. The bill, which Singleton calls the “Student Athlete Protection Act,” states that public fields, stadiums and gyms can’t be used by teams with a transgender member.
“Public and governmental facilities shall not be utilized for athletic competitions in which a person who is not a biological male is allowed to participate in athletic events conducted exclusively for males or a person who is not a biological female is allowed to participate in athletic events conducted exclusively for females,” the bill reads. “This Code section shall not apply to athletic events in which both biological males and biological females are permitted or allowed to participate.”
Singleton told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he doesn’t know of any athletes the bill will immediately affect, but “We’re seeing a lot of things happening in states across the country and a big part of my campaign promise was to preserve the character of my community.”
The bill goes against the work of Georgia Equality, which has a mission of advancing fairness, safety and opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and their allies.
“The introduction of this legislation is a shameful attack on some of the most vulnerable students, those who identify as transgender,” executive director Jeff Graham said. “Transgender athletes participate in sports for the same reasons as everyone else — to get and stay healthy, be part of a team, be a part of a sport they love, and build camaraderie with their peers.”
"I think probably the bigger problem to me is that we're going to make this a 'law,' " Doralville City Councilwoman Stephe Koontz, the first openly-transgender council member in the southeast, told WJCT. "What's the enforcement? What are they going to do, inspect the genitals of every athlete?"
Missouri State Senator Cindy O’Laughlin introduced a similar bill in November.
“One thing I am absolutely certain about is that if you are a male, you should be playing male sports, and if you are a female, you should be playing female sports,” O’Laughlin said in an opinion piece in the Columbia Tribune. “I don’t think that you should have the ability to make that decision any other way.”
While the Georgia High School Association already has a policy that a student’s gender is determined by their birth certificate, a number of states currently allow athletes to compete against the gender they identify with. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation in August based on a complaint by girls high school cross country track and field athletes that didn’t find it fair that they were competing against two biological boys who were dominating the field.
“We all know the outcome of the race before it even starts; it’s demoralizing,” Selina Soule, who was part of filing the complaint, told CBS News. “I fully support and am happy for these athletes for being true to themselves. They should have the right to express themselves in school, but athletics have always had extra rules to keep the competition fair.”
Andraya Yearwood, one of the transgender athletes mentioned in the lawsuit, is driven by the discussion.
“Because they don’t want me to run, I have to run harder,” Yearwood told Bleacher Report in late 2018.
“As a human being — not as Andraya’s father — it’s disappointing that, in 2019, we’re still debating who gets to participate and who doesn’t,” Rashaan Yearwood told the Hartford Courant last June. “You would hope we’d gotten to a place in 300-plus years as a country that we’re not debating who should be included, and who should not be. There is no place for exclusion.”