Texas Governor Greg Abbott last week issued a mandate requiring doctors, nurses and teachers to report to the state any gender-affirming care provided to children, calling it abuse with “criminal penalties for failure to report such child abuse.”
This cruel mandate in the state should have been met with a very simple and immediate statement from the event’s governing body, the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance: “Due to Texas’ cruel mandate to criminalize gender-affirming care for trans youth, NAGAAA has made the decision to relocate the 2022 Gay Softball World Series to another location, to be announced at a later date.”
So why hasn’t NAGAAA said anything about this? Do they want to wait and see what investigations of parents and doctors come first?
This must be the line for them. If not here, where? How much harm against the trans community can they ignore? They should wield their considerable power as the national governing body of thousands of LGBTQIA+ athletes to send messages to the power structures that legislate our rights away.
A wait-and-see approach has led us to this very moment. That approach is not defensible.
Four other trans players in Seattle’s Emerald City Softball Association spoke in no uncertain terms when discussing what Texas has done.
Sara Fetters, who has played in the league since 2001, is one of NAGAAA’s highest profile openly trans players on a national level.
“This is a despicable act that, if allowed to proceed, will directly lead to the death of some trans children,” Fetters said.
“I was appalled when I read about the mandate criminalizing trans kids and their loving parents,” said Amanda Bonfield, who is playing her second year in ECSA this season.
Rabecka Salisbury, who has been involved in NAGAAA leagues for seven years “felt crushed for those children and their families,” she said. “I immediately realized that this is the first step towards other policies and laws down the line to target transgender and non-binary individuals’ civil liberties.”
Austin Sprague, starting his second year in the ECSA this season, expressed fear for closeted trans children.
“I am afraid of all the children who would fear they cannot live in this kind of world and take their own lives when they could have been otherwise supported and celebrated,” he said. “This mandate is child abuse.”
NAGAAA’s failure to release even a milquetoast statement shows we are an afterthought to them.
“They are supportive, but they have never done anything to curb the transphobic and misgendering behaviors of their member cities,” Salisbury said. “They have never truly come out in support of their transgender and non-binary members that I can recall. Most events at the World Series are geared towards gay men specifically.”
Fetters said a failure to understand trans people has lead to conversations about whether she qualifies as “non-straight” for the tournament.
“My coaches and managers had to have conversations wondering whether or not they would need to list me as a ‘straight’ player on their World Series rosters,” Fetters said. NAGAAA limits the number of straight players teams can utilize during the tournament.
While she enjoyed attending the World Series when Tampa Bay hosted, Fetters didn’t feel safe traveling around the city and surrounding areas unaccompanied.
“Only my teammates – and members of the ECSA leadership – understood how heinous this was, and that this sort of thing didn’t even seem to register with NAGAAA leadership at all was moderately startling,” Fetters said.
Bonfield was direct.
“If NAGAAA doesn’t move it, it will signal that they are not concerned about the rights of trans people,” Bonfeld said.
“Every day they wait, for me, shows how little they care about anybody but the gay cisgender men of the organization,” Salisbury said.
Some will argue that we should go to Dallas and wave the flag proudly, but that means roughly 250 softball teams, each with around 15 players, many with plus-ones, will be spending their money.
“The real power lies with NAGAAA to impact Texas economically,” Bonfield said. Past estimates of economic impact of the GSWS have been around $5-7 million.
Wave the flag all you want, but in the end, monsters like Abbott would laugh at us on the pile of money we pour into his state during the GSWS.
MLB moved the 2021 All-Star Game out of Georgia due to the passage of its racist voter suppression law. If MLB can do it, NAGAAA can.
As one of the largest governing bodies of queer athletes in America, they must lead. If the trans community can’t count on them to stand up to bullies in the face of cruelty and intolerance, who can we count on?
If my team, the Puget Sound Pronouns, qualifies for the World Series, I will not attend, nor would our coach, Fetters.
Two Seattle teams said they will not play in Texas. One Portland team called for their league to boycott the World Series. Refusing to take a stand to support trans and non-binary players would further erode the already-shaky level of trust trans players have in them.
Transgender youth are more than three times more likely to attempt suicide than cisgender youth, according to the CDC. This mandate will widen that gap.
Each player I talked to, myself included, wants to send our deepest love to trans youth in Texas. You are not alone, we love you, you should get to grow up as who you are without fear. We are fighting for you. That will never change.
It’s unfortunate for LGBTQIA+ businesses in Dallas that would benefit from the World Series, but their bottom lines are not more important than trans rights.
“Listen to your Trans and Non-Binary members,” Fetters said. “Learn from them. A clear, bold and unequivocal statement of support must be made, and should be made right now. If this includes pulling the Series from Dallas and relocating it somewhere else, no matter what the cost in dollars might be, this should be done immediately and without hesitation.”
Brittney Miller has played ECSA softball for 11 years. When she entered the league, she was presenting as a cisgender straight man, but she credits the welcoming nature and community of the league as a instrumental in her journey to discovering she is a trans woman, She now manages the Puget Sound Pronouns and hopes to give back to the community. You can find her on Twitter @LetsGetBritt, and sign her petition to move the Gay Softball World Series out of Dallas.