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Here’s how sports can stand up for the trans community as allies

With Idaho’s governor signing anti-trans bills into law, the first team that publicly allies with its trans fanbase will emerge as heroes.

A giant Trans Flag unfurled outside the Supreme Court. 133... Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

As we reported on Monday, Idaho Gov. Brad Little just signed two anti-trans bills into state law. And like the old expression goes, the best way to tell that new laws are noble is when you have to sneak them in under cover of an international pandemic.

Perhaps Gov. Little is trying to demonstrate how immunity works given that he clearly has built up such a strong one to human decency.

Similar bills have been introduced in several states over the past year but Idaho actually sanctioning prejudice as state law is a new low. Right now, the transgender community and trans athletes need as many vocal and influential allies as they can find.

All of this presents a chance for sports to do some good. Specifically, whenever they are able to resume again, there’s an opportunity for every major league team to step up and declare themselves on the right side of history. Any team that takes public steps to support its trans fanbase in the wake of these historically discriminatory anti-trans laws will be remembered as an organization that sided with equality at a time when a marginalized community was under attack.

So how could major league teams take that step and show their support? There are a number of ways and this is one instance where Pride Nights provide a helpful road map.

One small but meaningful gesture would be to include the transgender flag in team logos and merchandise in the same way that the rainbow flag is incorporated into Pride shirts and caps. It would reaffirm that the trans community is just as welcome to be a part of sports as any other fan who comes through the gates or puts a game on TV.

Transgender Day of Remembrance or TGoR marked in the City...
If an entire city could do it, so could the Maple Leafs or the Blue Jays.
Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

If a team or league wanted to take more substantive action, they could also announce public support for charities such as Trans Lifeline, The National Center for Transgender Equality, or The Transgender Law Center. As the new Idaho laws demonstrate, organizations like these will need all the financial and community support they can get.

As we just saw with the International Transgender Day of Visibility, providing a space for celebration and visibility matters. Just as Gay Men’s Choruses are frequently invited to sing the national anthem on Pride Nights, several major cities are home to trans and non-binary choirs who could be invited to do the same. The Los Angeles Dodgers, for example, have previously invited the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles to sing the anthem. Once games begin again, it would be a good time to have them back ASAP.

What’s more, major sporting events are full of opportunities to showcase fans from the first pitch in baseball to the shoot the puck contest in hockey to the halfcourt shot game in basketball. If a team were to pick someone from their trans fanbase to take part in any of these rituals, it would be an undeniable way to link themselves with support for the community.

Such a link was established in 2017 when the St. Louis Cardinals spotlighted a first pitch from transgender performer Tassandra Crush. As a Cub fan, it profoundly pains me to write the following sentence: Hey MLB, be more like the Cardinals.

Furthermore, by providing a public forum for trans fans to demonstrate athletic skills, this could also be a way to humanize trans athletes, for everyone to see and acknowledge that they have the support of the most prominent organizations in sports. Teams like to portray themselves as a civic institution—especially when they want favors done. But now with trans athletes being used as pawns by politicians trying to leverage a culture war, this is a chance for every team actually to act like one.

Granted, some fans might argue that Pride Nights already cover this ground and those promotions are meant to stand for everyone in the LGBTQ community. But the fact of the matter is that when the trans community is being specifically singled out in discriminatory legislation, as they are right now, they need prominent allies to just as specifically take a stand for them.

Cleveland Indians v San Francisco Giants
Like this... but for the trans community.
Photo by Don Smith /MLB Photos via Getty Images

And I know that most teams would be scared off from doing something like this because they fear it will be “too political”—PR-speak that means, “I know this would be the right thing to do but the transphobes are so loud.”

So, let’s be clear: any team that steps up as an ally for the trans community in their hour of need is going to be remembered as a heroic organization for a long time. It’s why we still commend the San Francisco Giants for holding Until There’s a Cure Day. Or the Chicago Cubs for partnering with Out at Wrigley. Or the WNBA for setting an example for all sports leagues by embracing Pride Nights.

All it takes is one team brave enough to be the anti-Idaho. Since we’re talking about professional sports located in major centers of culture, they already kind of are anyway.