All across the country this week, we’ve heard impassioned pleas for transgender rights. Many of them came from LGBTQ advocates, including one very brave trans teen who testified in front of the Senate about her desire to join her school’s bowling team.
But as we know, straight allies are integral to our community’s fights for equality. And they have stepped up — big time. During a time when lawmakers in as many as 25 states have proposed 80 or more laws restricting athletics or affirming healthcare for trans kids, we need to keep amplifying their voices.
In a now-viral speech, Missouri dad Brandon Boulware urged legislators in his state to reject a bill that would ban his trans daughter from playing sports.
At the start of his speech, the Christian son of a Methodist minister told the lawmakers he also didn’t understand transgender issues at first, and prohibited his daughter from wearing girls’ clothes and being her true self. The end result, he said, was a child who never smiled. The turning point came when his daughter said she would change into boys’ clothes if he allowed her to go over a neighbor’s house.
“It was then that it hit me. My daughter was equating being good with being someone else,” Boulware said. “I was teaching her to deny who she is. As a parent, the one thing we cannot do, the one thing, is silence our child’s spirit.”
MUST WATCH: Brandon Boulware, the father of a transgender daughter, testifies during a hearing asking Missouri lawmakers to stop discriminating against trans youth. pic.twitter.com/bTuSoyE1nW— ACLU (@ACLU) March 15, 2021
Already this year, we’ve seen Republican Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi sign a ban on trans student-athletes into law, and Arkansas and South Dakota recently passed similar bills, along with the Alabama House. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee tackled the Equality Act in a three-hour hearing Wednesday, with Republican lawmakers placing most of their focus on trans participation in girl’s and women’s sports — bemoaning the supposed plight of their cisgender competitors.
That’s why it was so powerful to hear North Dakota high school junior Olivia Date tell legislators in her state that trans kids belong the field, rejecting their argument that trans bans protect cisgender female athletes.
“I would say those concerns are misplaced,” she said. “I would say that’s not rooted in a desire for personal protection or gender equality, but rooted in transphobia.”
WATCH THIS: Olivia Data, a high school junior in North Dakota and a student leader, gives the perfect response to a legislator who suggests trans girls don't belong in sports. #LetKidsPlay pic.twitter.com/xpAAUP438B— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) March 17, 2021
Republican lawmakers in Montana have sent a pair of anti-trans bills to the State Senate, one of which is the so-called “Save Women’s Sports Act,” or HB112. Former St. Lawrence University elite biathlete Lucy Hochschartner of Lake Placid, N.Y. wrote a moving op-ed in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, telling the politicians who want to “save” athletes like her to stop.
“I am a cisgender woman, meaning that I was assigned female at birth and identify as a woman. I am an athlete. In other words, I am exactly who this bill apparently saves. The only problem? I don’t want it.”
She addressed State Rep. John Fuller, HB112’s sponsor, directly: “This bill is not about saving women’s sports. It is merely a vehicle for Rep. Fuller to push through his anti-trans discriminatory agenda.”
“As someone who has spent my entire life in women’s sports — from after-school activities, to NCAA Championships, to the international stage — I can firmly say that I have more expertise than sponsor Rep. Fuller. The Women’s Sports Foundation, 176 athletes in women’s sports (including soccer star Megan Rapinoe and tennis groundbreaker Billie Jean King), and I all agree that we want our non-cisgender peers to participate. We’re not concerned, so why are Montana legislators?”
In Florida, another father of a trans daughter, Jesse Jones, also talked about his change of heart on the issue. Like Boulware, he was raised in a Christian home, as an Evangelical Methodist, and grew up in conservative Northeast Georgia. He says he feared all members of the LGBTQ community, including “the trans.”
He said it’s time to move on from those fears, and let his daughter enjoy her childhood like everybody else.
“Where can she fit in? Where can she play ball?” he asked. “Do not deny her the rights that I had as a kid growing up.”
The committee ignored his pleas and passed the trans sports ban on a 13-4 vote, sending it to the Republican-dominated State Senate.
Today, Floridians urged a state House panel to vote against a bill targeting trans student athletes. "Do not deny her the rights that I had as a kid," a father of a trans girl implored lawmakers.— Tampa Bay Times (@TB_Times) March 18, 2021
The panel, on a 13-4 vote, backed the bill. Details: https://t.co/DI1gKPomoF pic.twitter.com/Aui8qpILf6
While the science around trans participation in sports is complex, these debates are not about Olympic trials or high-level professional competitions. They are about prohibiting trans kids from playing sports with their friends — effectively treating them as inferior.
That’s the message out college runners Alana Bojar and Aliya Schenck wanted to get across in their public letter to the NCAA, demanding the organization pull championship events from states entertaining anti-trans legislation.
“I know that like being a queer athlete, being on a team that affirms your identity is so important,” Bojar told Outsports. “Essentially, I’ve spent every afternoon since seventh grade on the track, having those people say, ‘It’s okay to be who you are. It’s okay to be who you are and do something that you love.’ To know that trans athletes don’t have that, it’s just infuriating.”
Trans girls, trans boys and non-binary individuals deserve to have their identities affirmed, too. We all need to say it out loud.