As Daily Kos continues to cover, conservatives are making trans folks their number-one enemy when it comes to rallying hate votes—just in time for midterm elections this fall. We’ve seen Republicans introduce bills trying to bar trans folks of all ages from safe, gender-affirming health care, and we’ve seen ongoing efforts to keep trans folks from using the appropriate bathrooms and locker rooms. We’ve also seen legislation target trans youth—and especially trans girls—when it comes to competing on girls’ sports teams.
Discrimination is wrong. Period. But it’s important to look into the nuances and details of these various bills on the state level, as conservatives are trying a variety of attacks when it comes to isolating and demonizing trans kids who simply want to play with their friends. And these lines of attack can lead to serious consequences for an already vulnerable population.
One example comes to us out of Utah, where, as reported by Deseret News, angry parents of girls who came in second and third to a fellow girl have accused her of being transgender and claimed she doesn’t “look feminine enough.” These claims mounted into a literal investigation into the girl’s life.
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The competition the girl won was at the state level and actually happened about a year ago. Neither the specific sport nor the school the girl attended has been disclosed publicly. But according to David Spatafore, who serves as the legislative representative for the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA), the complaint led to record requests going back to kindergarten.
“She’s always been female,” Spatafore told the Utah Legislature’s Education Interim Committee during a recent meeting on the debacle, per the outlet.
If you're wondering how in the world an investigation like this is even legal, that’s largely thanks to HB 11, the “Student Eligibility in Interscholastic Activities” bill. Interestingly, Republican Gov. Spencer Cox actually vetoed the bill after it passed in both the state House and Senate, but legislators overturned the veto and enacted it into law.
The bill, in short, bans trans girls from participating in girls’ sports in the entire state. If parents believe a trans girl took the place of a cisgender girl, or beat a cisgender girl in a game or match, as in the case described here, they’re allowed to file a complaint, and adults get to dig into the youth’s personal history and life.
In this case, it seems the student and her parents weren’t actually told about the investigation. Spataford told the committee they didn’t make it a “personal situation” with the athlete in question because all of their questions were answered by the school via enrollment records.
Now, all of this is obviously transphobic and discriminatory. That in itself is enough for it to be bad and wrong. It’s also true that laws like this one harm people who are cisgender—for example, in this case, or any other involving a masculine-presenting cis girl or woman, or a feminine-presenting cis boy or man. Those people, who aren’t trans, could face accusations like this one that result in intrusive investigations and public harassment. It can also be applied to things like bathroom and locker room access.
The overall goal is to harm trans folks. It’s also to harm the broader queer community and, frankly, anyone who has a different preference for gender expression or aesthetics that doesn’t conform to societal norms for presentation. Anti-trans efforts are bad enough because they hurt trans people—and they’re going to hurt cis folks, too, even if people don’t want to believe that as a real possibility.