Imagine a warm and sunny Friday afternoon, where inside their school gym, a group of cheerleaders are giggling amongst themselves. They apply glitter to their hair and tumble across the slick floor, hyping each other up before they get on the sidelines.
Each one of them is smiling widely, not worried about the world around them. When their head is in the game, nothing else matters.
For most people, especially students, sports are an escape from the world. I know they certainly are for me. Until I joined Cross Country at the start of my freshman year, I never felt good at anything, or like I was even worthy of being successful at all. I had no support group, no place to expend my energy, and nothing to be particularly proud of.
That all changed for the better when I became part of my wonderful team, and I finally felt like I had motivation to be the best version of myself.
However, recently I find that the way I view sports is shifting again, this time for the worse. I find the same is true for a lot of female athletes. No longer are athletics an escape for young girls, or a place for us to be happy. Instead, sports are becoming another item on the long list of things we have to fear.
Enter Georgia House Bills 276 and 372, which if passed, could negatively impact women all across our state.
The Details in HB276
According to the Georgia General Assembly, HB276 states that is it “Unlawful for public or private schools whose students compete against a public school to operate athletic programs that permit a person whose gender is male to participate in an athletic program that is designed for females.”
This definition is a very round-about way of saying that, if the bill is passed, transgender girls could no longer compete with or against cisgender girls in school sports.
This bill has six sponsors, and is currently in the House Education Committee, but the main sponsor is Republican Philip Singleton of District 71, whose office is located in Sharpsburg in central Georgia.
Not only is this bill potentially unconstitutional, but it also seems to make little sense until you do further research. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, gender is “either of the two sexes (male and female), especially when considered with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones. The term is also used more broadly to denote a range of identities that do not correspond to established ideas of male and female.”
Using that definition, this bill technically reads that boys cannot compete against girls, which is perfectly reasonable, and should have nothing to do with transgender people. However, that is not the case. That’s where our second bill comes into play.
The Details in HB372
The independent news outlet LGBTQ Nation quickly summarizes all three parts of HB372, explaining that “House Bill 372 would re-define gender as ‘a person’s biological sex at birth’ in state law, require state-funded schools and associations to ban participants they deem not ‘biologically’ male or female from sports, and calls for a panel to examine information about ‘the genitalia or chromosomes of any participant who petitions otherwise.’”
This bill also has six sponsors in the House Education Committee, but 372 is backed mainly by Republican Rick Jasperse, who represents District 11 in Murray, Gordon, and Pickens counties in North Central Georgia.
There are many things to analyze within the three main parts of HB372, starting at the beginning, the attempt to re-define gender as “a person’s biological sex at birth.”
Sponsors of HB372 will likely be unsuccessful in making this change, as redefining such a regularly used word would present many more repercussions. However, it’s the other two parts of 372 that are far more resonant.
The second facet states that “It would also allow students who are deprived of athletic opportunities” or face “‘direct or indirect harm’ due to teams violating the proposed boy-girl split in Georgia sports to seek damages in civil courts.”
The Logic Falls Flat
Essentially, this means that any cisgender athlete who is “harmed” in any way by a transgender athlete may bring the issue to court, giving them the power to sue the school that did not comply with the proposed discriminatory bill.
Although I personally disagree with this proposal, it is one of the only semi-logical pieces of the bill. The logic quickly falls flat, however, when you give it any sort of analysis.
The terms “direct or indirect harm” and “deprived of athletic opportunity” are so wildly vague that they are almost begging to be abused. They could be used to describe a plethora of things that do not warrant legal action, and stories could be exaggerated or completely made up to try and disadvantage trans students for no other reason than spite.
In an ideal world, those who seek legal action on the basis of HB372 would have to provide substantial evidence in a fair and just trial for a prosecution to take place. Alas, when looking at how many minorities are treated in court, it is easy to tell that this might well not be the case.
Discrimination in Disguise
The intent here seems less aggressively transphobic, at least on the surface. It’s no secret that males are, generally speaking, more physically advantaged, and often, will naturally excel more than females, hence why this section of the bill seems the most logical, as it may provide a real benefit to cisgender female athletes.
Emphasis on “may,” as in reality, it wouldn’t make any difference to the majority of us who have never faced this situation, and never will.
Additionally, the benefits that a select few athletes will get is not nearly worth the discrimination others could face. Georgia Equality, the largest LGBTQ rights advocacy group in the state, expresses why with this statement: “School sports are an important part of childhood development. Athletics teaches students teamwork, leadership, discipline and hard work. Denying transgender athletes the opportunity to gain these skills and play with their peers is unfair.”
Teen Trans Suicide
According to the CDC, 35% of trans youth have attempted suicide by the time they reach high school, and unfortunately, I can attest to that.
I have many friends who are trans and I had to talk five of them off a ledge before we even made it to the eighth grade. It only worsened through middle school, especially as more anti-LGBTQ laws were passed during the Trump administration, making all of us feel completely hopeless.
Even though it’s gotten better as we entered high school, those experiences will never leave any of us, and if there’s anything I can do to make sure no other kids like me have to go through that, I will. This bill provides almost no benefits to cisgender girls, but offers potentially unimaginable levels of damage to transgender ones.
A middle school lacrosse game isn’t worth a life.
The Most Frightening Part
The final, and possibly most disturbing, part of HB372 are the ways the House is attempting to enforce the bill. More specifically, the idea that 372 “calls for a panel to examine information about the genitalia or chromosomes of any participant who petitions otherwise.”
I had to read that statement multiple times over in order to fully process it, and I implore you to do the same. There are over 170,000 words in the English language, but only two are needed to express why that sentence sends a chill down my spine.
That alone should be enough to shut this nightmare down, and yet, it possibly won’t be.
It doesn’t matter what end of the political spectrum a person falls on, or whether they support trans rights or not, there is nobody out there who could effectively justify that statement, and nobody should have the audacity to try.
Young girls have had to have been taught from the day they could walk to be careful around adults, as we were never safe.
And yet, with one sentence, all of those lessons could go out of the window.
We’re Not Farm Animals
If this bill passes, it’s only a matter of time before the cases start to crop up. At least one girl will be traumatized by what would go on in that room, and even if it was only one, it would be one too many.
But it won’t likely be just one.
We aren’t farm animals for physicians to come and inspect and deem worthy. We deserve bodily autonomy.
No bill is worth risking our safety. There is a difference between a person having a different opinion and being dangerous, and that line was crossed as soon as HB372 came off of the printer.
Said bill essentially ensures that girls could be touched and looked at any way the “physicians” see fit, and makes it far more likely that they won’t be able to do anything if they are uncomfortable, as it can be chalked up to just being “an examination.”
These politicians claim to protect us. They say they’re giving us what we want. And yet when we come running, begging them to send it back, they turn a blind eye. Sports should be a safe place to have fun with our friends and make memories, not another reason to keep pepper spray in our school bags.
Even still, it is not only myself and my friends that I’m worried about.
Currently, the bill does not specify an age range for the inspections, meaning it could apply to K-12. In the state of Georgia, a kindergarten girl can be as young as five years old. Meaning, if a five year old girl wanted to join the little league team, she could be subject to these “inspections,” being looked at and touched by adult men, unable to say no unless she wanted to be cut from the team.
And the worst part is, she doesn’t have the benefit of knowing why.
No person with half a heart, and especially no parent, should be OK with their daughter being required to be touched by adults in order to play on a school sports team. And if they are, there is another issue on our hands.
“It’s An Overreaction”
Seeking the opinion of a sensible adult, I spoke to Jennifer Slipakoff, a civil rights activist, former 2018 Georgia House candidate for District 36 and the mother of a trans daughter. “It’s an overreaction,” says Slipakoff. “The decision should be up to the school. If they’re fine with it, everyone else should be too. It’s invasive and inappropriate, especially for minors. Republicans claim to want a smaller government, but here they are, trying to gain more control.”
Slipakoff also points out the possible damage to the Georgia economy, bringing up what happened in North Carolina when they passed their anti-trans bathroom laws in 2016, resulting in a national boycott of the state. She claimed that the passing of the bill is already a waste of time and taxpayers money, and draws attention away from real issues.
Will Atlanta Forfeit the World Cup?
In an AJC opinion piece, Human Rights Watch Global Initiatives director Minky Worden writes that Atlanta is one of 10 international cities competing to host the 2026 World Cup. The passing of a bill that discriminates against transgender athletes looks extremely bad for the city and state as a whole, and could decrease our chances of winning the bid. After all, since Human Rights Watch works closely with FIFA, Georgia could be risking losing one of the biggest opportunities the state has had since the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Those in favor of this bill claim they are trying to pass it because it will “protect female athletes.” In a press conference, Rep. Singleton stated, “‘allowing biological males to compete in girls’ sports spells the end of girls’ sports.’”
He seemed to be very confident in this statement, but no amount of his certainty could distract from the elephant in the room.
Why did they never ask us?
It is disheartening for a public official to make a judgement that directly affects every female athlete in the state, and somehow still make a decision that many of us are against.
If he had asked, and if he were doing this for the good of the young girls and not for his own transphobic fantasies, he would learn that female athletes don’t care.
Teen Athletes Speak Out
When asked if she had ever competed against a trans girl, Laura Romig, a senior and varsity runner at Pope Academy, said, “Not to my knowledge. One of my friends is a female-to-male trans athlete though, and I remember there was a lot of controversy on whether he was allowed to compete.”
Romig added that even if she had competed against or been beaten by a trans girl, she would simply be impressed by her athletic ability and be happy for her.
“It’s high school, we aren’t in the Olympics,” said Romig. “It’s just not that serious. This just seems like a way to knock down athletes who are doing well. Sports should be inclusive.”
She also brought up her concerns about the inspections, calling them a “huge invasion of privacy.”
I couldn’t agree more. We joined the athletics program to have fun, to get in shape and find new friends, and to add depth to our college applications.
We already have to deal with boys every day telling us women’s sports don’t count, or that we’ll never be as good because “women have it easier.” But we didn’t mind, because even though it sucked, it was all just a part of being a teenage girl.
If this bill gets killed, all of our lives would go back to normal. We could lay out our uniforms, make sure our cleats are by the door, and go back to practice knowing everything is how it should be. But if it does pass, our entire lives could change.
A Love for Sports Turns to Fear
Excitement turns to fear, and an extra hair tie could turn into an extra key on our key rings.
How long would this law be on the books before the headlines started rolling out?
The stories about little girls who kicked their doctors when their “examinations” went on for a little too long, and the doctors faced no charges.
How many of us have to come forward saying we got taken advantage of before the bill gets called back, only for an almost identical one to crop up under the gold dome this time next year?
There’s always a pattern.
A new anti-trans bill seems to circle the house every session, and legislators pretend they aren’t almost identical.
Crossover Day at the Capital
The bills did not pass through Crossover Day at the state capitol on Monday, March 8 (the day where proposed legislation has to clear one chamber to be considered for the session) which gives us reason to be cautiously optimistic. However, even still, we should stay alert, aware, and educated.
These bills are transphobia, plain and simple. But beyond that, it’s willful ignorance and bigotry so severe that they’re willing to potentially put every single girl at risk to get what they want.
If this bill passes, it’ll be far too late by the time they realize it was a mistake. The only way to prove that people will be hurt by this bill is after they’ve already been scarred by it.
There’s one way to make sure that nobody gets hurt, and that’s if it never passes in the first place.
“A Problem That Doesn’t Exist”
Earlier this month, a similar bill passed in Utah banning trans girls from participating in school sports. The Salt Lake Tribune, a Utah based news outlet, brings up a great point, when they say, “HB302… does not address transgender boys, who it appears would not be barred from participating in athletic activities with boys’ teams. It also does not contemplate people who are intersex, or who are born with both male and female traits.”
This is the same as what would happen if the bill were to pass in Georgia. Legislature doesn’t care about trans boys who may be disadvantaged or unsafe; they exclusively care about the discrimination of trans girls.
A statement supplied to VOX ATL by Shannon Clawson, Statewide Outreach Organizer of Georgia Equality, reads, “The extreme policy proposed in these bills is out-of-step with prevailing international and national norms of athletic competition, violates the United States Constitution and federal civil rights law, puts Georgia at risk of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding, and harms transgender youth, all to solve a problem that does not exist.”
Learn More on March 15
Georgia Equality and PFLAG ( Parents, Families, and friends of Lesbians And Gays) are hosting a Zoom meeting on March 15 to discuss these bills. The more people who join, the more pressure could be put on the legislature to kill this proposed legislation.
This bill has nothing to do with protecting female athletes. It’s about controlling us.