The Anti-Trans Sports Bill is Both Harmful and Pointless

Sarah Baird, Pawprint Staff Reporter

The Utah legislature voted to override Governor Spencer Cox’s veto of HB11, a bill that “limits participation in female sports, requiring schools… to designate athletic activities by sex, prohibiting a student of the male sex from competing against another school on a team designated for female students,” (Utah Legislature). 

It should be apparent how harmful the bill is just from the wording alone. Using “student of the male sex” to refer to a transgender female is insensitive. Misgendering is likely to provoke feelings of gender dysphoria in the transgender youth who this bill is targeting. Not misgendering (using the incorrect pronouns or referring to someone as the incorrect gender)/deadnaming (using the name of the person had before they transitioned) transgender people is one of the simplest ways to reduce rates of depression and suicide in trans youth.

A study found that “an increase by one context [meaning at school, work, home, or with friends] in which a chosen name could be used predicted a 5.37-unit decrease in depressive symptoms, a 29% decrease in suicidal ideation, and a 56% decrease in suicidal behavior,” according to Stephen Russell, P.H.D.

Beyond the language, the bill itself is harmful. If a student wants to play high school sports, they should be able to play sports. It is extremely unfair that HB11 banned trans youth from participating in sports (at least ones that align with their gender) simply because they’re trans. The study above was specifically about names. However, it is almost certain that the same results occur when trans teens can completely socially transition – including changing what sports team they’re on. Additionally, playing high school sports has been linked to better leadership skills, a stronger sense of community at school, and (primarily) improved physical fitness. Why can the legislature deny trans kids the experience of being on a high school team?

Not only is the bill harmful, but it’s also completely pointless. One trans girl is on a girls’ sports team in the entire state. This is one of the reasons that Governor Cox gave when he vetoed the bill. 

“I am learning so much from our transgender community,” Cox said in a letter explaining his veto. “They are great kids who face enormous struggles. Here are the numbers that have most impacted my decision: 75,000, 4, 1, 86, and 56. [There are]75,000 high school kids participating in high school sports in Utah. 4 [of those are] transgender… [Only] 1 transgender student [is] playing girls sports. 86% of trans youth [have reported] suicidality. 56% of trans youth [have] attempted suicide. Four kids and only one of them playing girls’ sports. That’s what all of this is about. Four kids who aren’t dominating or winning trophies or taking scholarships. Four kids who are just trying to find some friends and feel like they are a part of something. Four kids trying to get through each day. Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few.”

HB11 is the result of transphobia and a lack of knowledge about transgender people’s participation in sports. Concerns about this issue are typically unfounded.

“There seems to be a belief that any biologically-born male could simply say he was transgender and begin participating in women’s sports,” Cox wrote. “This is incorrect. For many years now, the UHSAA [the Utah High School Activities Assocation] has had in place a rule that only allows male-to-female transgender participation in women’s sports after a full year of difficult transition hormone therapy and [if they are] in consultation with a health care professional.”

This bill is devastating. Hopefully, the Utah legislature will realize their mistake with HB11 and rectify it. In the words of Cox, “I want them [transgender kids] to live.”