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Ginnie Graham: Bill disguised to help women's sports will only discriminate against them

Ginnie Graham: Bill disguised to help women's sports will only discriminate against them

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Among the proposed anti-LGBTQ bills filed for consideration at the Oklahoma Legislature is the benignly titled “Saving Women’s Sports.”

On the surface, it defends the rights of girls and women to compete on fair playing fields. That’s a smoke screen.

Senate Bill 331 from Sen. Michael Bergstrom, D-Adair, seeks to ban girls and women who are transgender from competition against others of their gender. It would create a “co-ed” category and allow students to sue schools if a person who is transgender deprives them “of an athletic opportunity or suffers direct or indirect harm.”

That’s code for allowing kids to sue schools if they don’t make the team or lose a game, a horrible lesson to instill. Also, it seeks a separate-but-equal approach, a historically bad idea.

It’s legislation encouraging discrimination, not preventing it.

Oklahoma is not facing a sports controversy around these gender politics. This is cut-and-paste legislation circulating state legislatures without regard to local issues.

These type of hot-button, social warfare laws do nothing to improve our state. It digs in the divisions, perpetuates stereotypes and stirs up fear.

For people not knowing a person who is transgender, it is easy to make assumptions based on false notions and misinformation.

Women who are transgender are women. It’s the same for men who are transgender.

A person’s gender cannot be determined by their reproductive parts.

If that were the case, are women who undergo a hysterectomy or mastectomy still women? Of course they are, if they identify as such.

This way of thinking sets up a gender police to define womanhood. Female athletes who fall outside the accepted body norms have been subjected to harassment and humiliating tests.

Most recently, South African runner Caster Semenya was disallowed from many international competitions because she naturally produces more testosterone than deemed acceptable for a woman.

While testosterone has been associated with superior athletic performance, there is growing scientific doubt it and other hormones are adequate markers for determining sex.

Four years ago, the New York Times documented several similar cases including India runner Dutee Chand who underwent gynecological exams and chromosome tests because her stride was too impressive and muscles too chiseled.

International human rights groups have taken notice of this growing discrimination, which tends to effect more women of color.

Based on this ill-proposed bill, if a girl on an opposing team appears too muscular or has a low voice, does the ref have to investigate? What about a boy who is small for his size? Who decides who is a boy or girl?

Birth certificates are poor determinants. They don’t reflect the maturation of a person and can be changed with legal action.

Students who are transgender, particularly those in adolescence, are going through a difficult transition. Their feelings typically emerge well before puberty, before they can articulate this awareness.

As children who are transgender age, the social and emotional pitfalls are great.

Denying students opportunities to participate as equals denies them and their classmates a chance to learn. Those lessons include working as a team with others who are different.

With all the hate that overtook our nation, leaders are finally calling to bridge the divides. The homegrown, domestic terrorists attacking our government do not respect or view others as equals.

To change our social fabric, moments of personal growth start on school soccer fields, baseball diamonds, debate teams and Bible clubs.

Athletes who are transgender want the same opportunities as others in their gender.

This is not some ploy for a boy to get one over on the girls to win a state title. It is not about a boy trying to get into a girls dressing room.

It’s about kids finding the place where they belong.

If anything, students who are transgender are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators.

Oklahoma youth, ages 10 to 24, have the 10th highest rate of suicide in the U.S. It is the second leading cause of death for these ages and has been trending up.

For youth who are transgender, the outcomes have been worse.

A University of Pittsburgh study out last year found 85% of transgender adolescents reported “seriously considering suicide,” while more than half of transgender adolescents attempted suicide.

That’s a horrifying statistic, but one that can improve.

The legal issue is Title IX, the civil rights legislation guaranteeing an equal opportunity for all students.

Oklahoma schools have students who are transgender. Some participate in sports and other activities, but the exact number is unknown.

Districts often work with those students, like with all students, to ensure safety in places like locker rooms. That is on a case-by-case basis.

Former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rolled back the protections for LGBTQ students, including the right to participate in sports with the gender for which they identify. That is expected to change.

Toby Jenkins, executive director of Oklahomans for Equality, has seen this legislation before.

“It’s a discriminatory bill that targets and demonizes transgender children to stop transgender students from participating in school activities with the gender for which they identify. It’s harmful and further marginalizes transgender students who would benefit from participating in social and sports activities,” he said.

Oklahoma lawmakers have better things to do with their time.

Our state is facing a crisis in public health, economy and education. Systems tasked to provide unemployment and vaccine distribution have been woefully inadequate.

The last thing lawmakers ought to be doing is considering do-nothing, polarizing bills.

SB 331 is not necessary. It doesn’t protect women and girls; it discriminates against them.

It doesn’t create understanding of people who have been pushed to the margins. It should be ignored. 

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