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Texas ‘Sex Appropriate’ Sports Law Officially Goes into Effect

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Transgender male student-athlete Mack Beggs being announced winner of girls semifinal match. | Image by Nathan Hunsinger/Associated Press

Student-athletes in Texas are now restricted from participating in K-12 school sports teams based on their ‘gender identity.’ Student-athletes must now participate in sports teams that match the sex listed on their birth certificate at or near the time of birth.

The new requirement comes from House Bill 25, signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott during a special legislative session in October 2021. The controversial law officially took effect on January 18. Previous versions of the bill had failed multiple times before reaching the governor’s desk.

The bill carves out an exception for girls who want to play a sport that does not have a girl’s team, such as football.

“We think this will be great for Texas, especially Texas girls,” Mary Castle told KVUE of Austin in October. Castle is the senior policy advisor at Texas Values, a group whose website states that its “mission is to preserve and advance a culture of family values in the state of Texas.”

“It makes sure that they can compete on a level playing field and that they don’t lose out on opportunities for scholarships and championships because they have to compete against a biological male,” Castle added.

HB 25 was authored by State Representative Valoree Swanson (R-Spring). After Governor Abbott signed the bill into law, Swanson released a statement saying HB 25 “is one of the greatest victories for equality for girls since Title IX passed 50 years ago!”

“Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance,” according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Swanson continued, “there has been a rise in the number of biological males competing in girls’ sports, resulting in girls being denied roster spots and championship trophies.”

She cited the story of Selina Soule, a high school track athlete who competed and lost against transgender opponents, and further claims that similar occurrences are taking place “at high schools all around the country, and even the Tokyo Olympics.”

Under the previous rules, Texas student-athletes participated in the sports team that matched the sex specified on their birth certificate. However, the UIL, which administers all athletic contests for public schools in Texas, accepted legally modified birth certificates, including ones where the sex was changed on the certificate to match the person’s ‘gender identity.’ That will no longer be the case.

White House officials and LGBTQ advocates have expressed opposition to the bill, saying that the legislation is harmful to transgender youth.

“Our message to young transgender people in Texas and across the country: these hateful bills are bullying disguised as legislation,” tweeted Matt Hill, a senior associate communications director with the White House in October.

“[President Joe Biden] and our administration will always keep fighting for the full equality LGBTQ+ folks deserve,” the tweet continues.

Armonte Butler, the senior program manager with the group Advocates for Youth, told KVUE in October, “It’s truly sad that this is the political priority of certain folks in power, instead of ensuring that folks have access to safe and supportive environments. It’s truly sad.”

Butler added that, along with blocking transgender athletes’ ability to play sports, the legislation also creates “a narrative that stigmatizes, shames and, to an extent, criminalizes trans youth.”

Texas is now the tenth state to enact a law requiring students to participate in interscholastic sports teams that match the sex they were assigned at birth, joining the states of Arkansas, Idaho, and Mississippi, among others.

As of late November, twenty-seven other states had introduced similar legislation, but the bills have not yet been successfully passed.

In contrast, some states, such as California, have policies in place which allow transgender student-athletes the ability to join sports teams that align with their ‘gender identity’ rather than their assigned sex at birth.

California legislators passed Assembly Bill 1266 in 2013, allowing public K-12 schools student-athletes to participate in sports according to their ‘gender identity.’

While California is the only state with legislation that allows students to choose which sports team to participate in, more than fifteen states have “friendly” policies toward transgender athletes, according to Transathlete. This website tracks and advocates for transgender athletes’ participation in sports that match their ‘gender identity.’

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, slightly less than 2% of all U.S. high school students identified as transgender in 2019.

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