Senate members discuss bill that limits transgender student athletes

Athletic fields across Austin were mostly quiet Monday. There were a few exceptions for summer workouts, and an occasional youth league practice. But the issue of restricting what sport a transgender student can play was in the political arena; under the capitol dome.

"There is a difference between men and women," said State Sen. Bob Hall R-Rockwall.

But the mother of a transgender son, Adair Apple was at the Texas Capitol because she has a different opinion. "No one is transitioning to gain any advantage," said Apple.

Members of the Senate Health and Human Services committee spent the day listening to testimony about SB2 and SB32.

"This bill is not about girl sports, it’s about sanctioning discrimination against trans kids in order to get votes," said Casey Viella who supports transgender students.

Cindy Phillips who came to testify Monday did not agree with Viella’s statement. "We seem to be confusing affirmation versus biology and skill set," said Phillips.

Rebecca Bryant brought her daughter to the hearing as well as a plea. "I'm asking you to leave us alone, let us live our lives. She is nothing to be frightened of," said Bryant.

Don Dixon expressed dismay that a hearing on the topic was needed. "We cannot allow men to compete against women," said Dixon.

The bills would require students in secondary education, and in college, to participate in sports associated with their sex at birth; as noted on their birth certificate. 

Just how many kids this would involve prompted questions about the need. A state senator asked Jamie Harrison with the UIL how many transgender students there are in the entire state of Texas. "The statistics I've seen there's a fraction of a percentage," replied Harrison.

During the regular session, a transgender sports bill passed in the Senate but died in the House after failing to clear a procedural deadline. The governor declared the controversial issue a critical item for the special session

Conservative groups claim the legislation is needed to protect women's sports. "When females are forced to compete with biological males, males have a physical advantage over them, you know really when males compete against females, the competition is over before it begins," said Nicole Hudgens with Family Policy Alliance.

Outside of the Senate chamber, during the committee hearing, advocates for transgender students held a brief demonstration. They wanted to show support for those testifying on their behalf. "Let trans youth be youth, let them be with their peers because we know when a trans youth is supported by only one person, their rate of suicide drops, by 50%," said Andrea Sagovia with Trans Rights Are Human Rights.

The legislation has an exception for female students. It allows them to participate in a sport designated for males; if a similar one is not offered or available. Once out of committee the bills could be up for floor debate in the Senate before the end of the week.

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