Thursday, June 30, 2022

What "Save Women's Sports" has wrought

There are so many anti-trans bills passed by and pending in state legislatures here in the United States that I cannot even begin to address them all except to say this has been a concerted movement targeting trans youth for several years now and it is horrifying.

The bill in Utah is my focus today. All the bills are horrible and saddening and enraging, but this all that and more. This one demonstrates the consequences of the anti-trans "save women's sports" movement.

The bill, which originated in 2021, bans children from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity. It was passed in March 2022, the governor vetoed it, the legislature overrode the governor's veto. 

Governor Cox, a Republican, expressed some compassion when explaining his veto of the bill. He cited that fact that Utah had four transgender children playing school-sponsored sports at the time. (I would argue that the number does not matter, but will save that post for another day.)

“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,” Gov. Cox wrote in the letter. “Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few. I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live. And all the research shows that even a little acceptance and connection can reduce suicidality significantly. For that reason, as much as any other, I have taken this action in the hope that we can continue to work together and find a better way.”

Like in other states that have passed anti-trans laws, Utah is facing a legal challenge from the families of trans children. This lawsuit is in its early stages.

Despite this challenge and fears that Utah will be passed over for events like the Olympics or the 2023 NBA All-Star Game (come on, NBA--use your power for good here) the legislature has moved forward with its assault on the dignity, rights, and health of children. The bill created the Utah School Activity Eligibility Commission whose members are appointed by the legislature. These members get to determine who is eligible to play girls' sports in the state by establishing a baseline range of physical characteristics that include height, weight, wingspan, flexibility, among others and by meeting with students whose eligibility is in question.  

Students who want to play girls' sports but whose birth certificates (for whatever reason) have them designated as male must submit documentation to this group (i.e. out themselves, i.e, endanger themselves) and meet with this group in a CLOSED session. What kind of traumatic events will occur behind those closed doors? [I am watching Under the Banner of Heaven on Hulu right now so my feelings about Utah are not very positive right now anyway.]

This is so very flawed and misogynistic and racist. Who is going to be targeted? Most definitely girls who are racial minorities and any girl who does not appear feminine enough. This is Caster Semenya all over again. Who is too strong, too tall, too wide? 

The commission will establish gendered baselines for all activities. So now what happens to the cisgender boy who is "too short" for volleyball or the cisgender girl who is "too tall" for field hockey? What happens to children with disabilities? What happens to children who weigh more than the baseline? 

The philosophy behind interscholastic sports is participation for the purpose of health, and emotional and social growth. They should not be promoting ableism, fat phobia, racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. 

This is what the save women's sports movement has wrought. In arguing that we need all these (scientifically unsupported) regulations to make sports "safe" for cisgender, white, middle-class women, they have endangered so many people across ages, races, and socioeconomic classes. They have increased the surveillance of all women. They have increased gender- and race-based violence. All of the efforts to make sports more inclusive by combatting all the -isms I listed above are being erased by these so-called women's sport advocates. 

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