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Supporting Trans Youth in Sports, Schools, and Positive Youth Development

Content adapted from "Anti-Trans Sports Bills are a “Solution” to a Problem That Doesn’t Exist" article published by on 03/04/21.

“Bills attempting to prevent trans girls from competing in girls’ sports have been flooding legislative sessions across the country faster than advocates can respond to them. In all, more than two dozen states have introduced anti-trans sports bills in the first two months of 2021, and legislation has been introduced at the federal level as well.

This nationwide assault on the rights of trans kids — and trans girls, in particular — is both alarming and unprecedented. If passed, these bills will harm young people who are already among the most vulnerable due to discrimination, lack of access to gender-affirming resources, and high rates of suicidality. The rate at which these bills have been introduced would imply that trans girls competing in sports has caused an unfair and widespread issue for girls’ sports divisions, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, these bills propose a “solution” to a problem that doesn’t actually exist.

The argument fueling this wave of legislation goes that trans girls are “biologically male” and, therefore, will always have an athletic advantage over cisgender girls. The problem with this line of thinking is that it’s based on bigotry, not fact. This claim hinges on the role that testosterone plays in athletic performance, and the science on that is far from conclusive (and science-based discrimination has a long and ugly history).

In reality, a report from the progressive think tank Center for American Progress found that trans-inclusive sports policies don’t actually harm cisgender children, as guidelines allowing all youth to compete in athletics actually increase participation among all groups. Banning trans youth from gender-affirming sports experiences, however, deprives them of the benefits kids receive from athletics, which include lowered risks of anxiety, depression, and suicide attempts.

But even without scientific research, a simple look at the realities of high school athletics is enough to disprove the flimsy premise behind this new direction in anti-trans bills. Some cisgender people are framing the fears they have about trans girls dominating girls’ sports as pleas to “save women’s sports” or “protect girls and children.” They argue that boys and men will transition (or “pretend” to be a woman) solely so they can dominate girls’ sports, which is a willful misunderstanding of trans identity and the sacrifices people make to medically transition and live as their authentic selves. It also perpetuates long-held transphobic tropes about transgender identities being rooted in deception.”

Advocacy work and education can go a long way to make homes, schools, and communities more inclusive of all LGBTQ+ youth. This year, we invite our coalition and community members to attend VIDA X, our annual conference for LGBTQ+ youth and those who support youth. We invite you to come to learn with us, grow with us, and celebrate Pride month. Click here to register.

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