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Kids caught up in “culture wars”

The Georgia High School Association voted unanimously Wednesday to adopt a ban on transgender girls who want to play on girls’ teams.

The Georgia Assembly passed the ban in the last few minutes of the 2022 legislative session, drawing strong protests from opponents who said that no legislators had had time to read last-minute changes to SB 266 and who demanded a floor debate. No debate took place.

The law did not address transgender boys who want to play on boys’ teams.

Minutes from today’s meeting said little about the 25-member committee the legislation put in place: “Hines reminded the committee of the Student Leadership Conference on May 6 and then gave a brief summary of what happened to affect the GHSA during the recent legislative session. ‘We wound up with an oversight committee, which I support,’
said Hines. ‘I think communication back and forth is a good, good thing.’ He also urged all the committee members, especially the 25 newly-elected ones, to make contact with their local representatives and develop a relationship with them so they better understand how the GHSA operates.”

25 new board members to enforce ban

Those 25 new members were added to GHSA’s board by the new law, specifically for the purpose of enforcing the transgender athlete ban. If a school or coach refuses to follow the new law, the committee has the power to pull all funding for all students at the school in question. GHSA’s board now has 72 members, according to the minutes—with more than one-third of them there to enforce the transgender athlete ban:

The Clayton Crescent and other news outlets have asked school systems how many students have been directly prevented from taking part in school sports under the bill. Clayton County Public Schools says it has not heard of any students who would not be allowed to play under the new law. CCPS declined to state how many transgender students attend Clayton County Schools, citing privacy laws.

Gov. Brian Kemp applauded the ban today on Twitter:

Proponents of the ban claim transgender girls are stronger and faster than cisgender girls, and that transgender girls take away wins, ranking, and scholarships from cisgender girls.

Both sides have cited Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the bases of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy, as justification for their positions.

Support for trans students

Whether or not a transgender child wants to join a school sports team, mental health experts say bills like this harm transgender students by singling them out and by depriving them of equal access to school resources. A 2020 study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence found that 82% of transgender students have thought about committing suicide, and 40% have tried to kill themselves. That study also found that “school belonging”—that is, a supportive school environment—had a positive effect on transgender students’ mental health.

The National Education Association (NEA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) note three myths about transgender girl athletes:

  • “that transgender women are not ‘real’ women and therefore not deserving of equal competitive opportunity”
  • “that being born with a male body automatically gives a transgender woman an unfair advantage when competing against non-transgender women”
  • “that men might be tempted to pretend to be transgender in order to compete in competition with women”

A coalition of LGBTQ-friendly groups has issued a list of resources offering support to transgender students, their families, and their supporters. You can get a copy of the list from the American Psychological Association.

According to the coalition, “While proponents of these bills try to give the impression of a national, grassroots movement to ‘protect women’s sports,’ the truth is these bills are part of a coordinated strategy by anti-LGBTQ organizations, including the Alliance Defending Freedom, Family Policy Institute, and Heritage Foundation, to exclude transgender people from public life and enable discrimination against LGBTQ+ people (see also the wave of bills denying life-saving health care to transgender youth). They call their campaign “Promise to America’s Children,” and have actually set up a website where anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers can download draft legislation to introduce. These bills aren’t grassroots — they’re cheap astroturf.”

State Rep. Sally Harrell (D-40) the mother of a transgender child, moments after the Georgia Assembly passed the transgender girl athlete ban in the last moments of the 2022 session. (Photo: Emma Hurt/Axios)

Ban latest salvo in election-year culture wars

The ban comes amid renewed election-year “culture war” campaigns and two days after word that the U.S. Supreme Court apparently is set to roll back Roe v. Wade, which guarantees women the right to seek abortions, and which legal scholars say is the basis for many other landmark privacy rulings affecting LGBTQ rights, contraception, and interracial marriage. Trans rights activists say Roe’s protection of women’s bodily autonomy applies to their bodies, as well.

Kemp’s Democratic opponent in the governor’s race, Stacey Abrams, announced she will suspend campaign fundraising in order to raise money for several local abortion rights groups. The AJC’s Greg Bluestein and Tia Mitchell report that The Feminist Women’s Health Center, SisterSong, ARC Southeast, Planned Parenthood Southeast, and NARAL Pro-Choice Georgia will get the funds.

Robin Kemp

Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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