Texas Advances Bills Limiting Transgender Athletes

Tabatha Wethal Headshot

Two bills approved Monday by a Texas Senate committee would require transgender athletes to participate on sports teams that correspond with the student’s sex at birth.

The legislation advanced out of a Senate committee after similar legislation failed to pass during the regular session, the Texas Tribune reported.

Although dozens of Democratic Senate members left the state in an attempt to halt legislation on voting restrictions, six Republicans on the Senate Health and Human Services Committee still had a quorum and held their first public hearing on the two bills during the days-old special legislative session.

Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, vice chair of the committee and author of the bills, said they’re meant to protect cisgender women’s rights to compete in their desired sports.

Both of the bills would require student athletes to participate on teams that correspond with the student’s sex assigned at birth or listed on their official birth certificate near the time of birth.

“It reminds us that it’s not OK to destroy the dreams of one for the benefit of another,” Perry said during the committee hearing.

Advocates for transgender athletes and other opponents of the bill argued that there was little evidence that transgender athletes were joining sports teams.

Maddox Hilgers, who identifies as nonbinary and is a graduate student at the University of Houston, asked the committee to halt the proposed bills.

“This argument that transgender athletes will take over women’s sports is ridiculous, because there (are) just not enough transgender girls to do that,” Hilgers said.

Texas’ governing body over high school athletics, the University Interscholastic League of Texas, currently requires the gender of students be “determined based on a student’s birth certificate.”

But the UIL recognizes changes made to a student’s birth certificate, including when a transgender person has the gender on their birth certificate changed to correspond with their gender identity, said Jamey Harrison, the UIL deputy director. But Senate Bills 2 and 32 would no longer allow that.

Cassie Villela of San Antonio was one of many parents with transgender children who showed up again on Monday after testifying before the Legislature during the regular session. Bills considered earlier this year — but that were not part of Monday's committee hearing — sought to restrict or punish transition-related health care, like puberty blockers, for children.

“My husband and I are just doing our best to give my daughter the support that she needs,” Villela said. “We struggled for the last few years to figure out what that looks like.”

Villela said her 7-year-old daughter, who is transgender, already has a difficult road navigating obstacles such as discrimination “without having to justify her existence to the Texas Legislature.”

Villella said she came to the Capitol more than five times during the regular session to testify and talk with legislators individually about bills affecting transgender youth.

“I think they don’t see people’s lived experiences with it, the reality of it,” Villela said.

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