By Jessica Simmons
The Florida House Secondary Education and Career Development Subcommittee passed a bill this month to prevent transgender women and girls from playing on women’s and girls’ sports teams at the high school or college level.
The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act requires that sports team participants compete only on the teams associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. It also states that if a student athlete’s sex is questioned, they could be required to have it confirmed by a healthcare provider, which could include a genital examination.
Proponents of the bill say that it is necessary to protect opportunities in sports for cisgender girls and women because transgender girls and women have an unfair biological advantage. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Kaylee Tuck, says “The act is pro-women and pro-girls and only acknowledges the biological differences between men and women… There are inherent biological differences between men and women. The ‘Fairness in Women’s Sports Act’ supports women and girls by ensuring they have the same opportunities as men and boys to showcase their skill, strength and other athletic abilities,”
The bill was passed 13-4 in the subcommittee.
All the votes against the bill came from House Democrats. Critics of the legislation say that it unfairly targets an already marginalized population and addresses a problem that doesn’t actually exist.
Tuck acknowledges that she does not know of any incidents in Florida where the participation of a transgender athlete has been opposed. According to Dr. Joshua D. Safer, speaking to the ACLU, “A person’s genetic make-up and internal and external reproductive anatomy are not useful indicators of athletic performance. For a trans woman athlete who meets NCAA standards, there is no inherent reason why her physiological characteristics related to athletic performance should be treated differently from the physiological characteristics of a non-transgender woman.”
More than 20 states have similar bills either enacted or under consideration. The Florida legislation was based on an Idaho bill that has been blocked by federal courts.
The basis of the court’s decision is the enforcement of Title IX. Title IX protects students from discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity receiving federal assistance.
President Biden signed an executive order in January directing all federal agencies to “fully enforce” Title IX and LGBT equality, adding “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”
Billie Jean King, winner of 39 Grand Slam tennis titles, and woman who defeated male player Bobby Riggs in 1973 has this to say on the matter: “Equal participation in athletics for transgender people does not mean an end to women’s sports. The idea that allowing girls who are transgender to compete in girls’ sports leads to male domination of female sports is based on a flawed understanding of what it means to be transgender and a misrepresentation of nondiscrimination laws.”