Holding true to threats he has made in the past, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has officially signed into Texas state law a rule that would restrict transgender students from participating in high school sports consistent with their gender identity.
ESPN’s Katie Barnes reported that following Abbott’s action, Texas has become “the eighth state — and the largest — to pass legislation this year addressing transgender athletes’ access to sports. South Dakota also enacted restrictions but did so through executive order. Idaho passed similar legislation in 2020, but it has since been blocked in federal court.”
According to Barnes, “the Texas law, known as HB25, passed in the state’s third special session. It allows student-athletes to participate only in the interscholastic sports that correspond with the sex listed on their ‘official birth certificate,’ which is defined as the document issued ‘at or near the time of the student’s birth.’”
One quirk of existing state law that will remain in place: students assigned female at birth will still be allowed to participate in boys’ sports such as football, but only if a corresponding girls’ sport is not available.
In a statement, Anne Lieberman, director of policy and programs at Athlete Ally, said, “my heart is breaking all over again for our communities in Texas who have been tirelessly and fiercely fighting anti-transgender legislation session after session. HB25 is yet another callous example of lawmakers passing legislation that bullies and targets kids who just want to play sports with their friends.”
The University Interscholastic League, a Texas organization that creates rules for and administers athletic, musical and academic contests within the state, already has an existing policy requiring all students participating in high school sports to do so in accordance with the sex listed on their birth certificates. However, it does accept amended birth certificates. Abbott’s new law, which is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 18, 2022, will override the current UIL policy.
Based on data from the bipartisan LGBTQ rights group Freedom for All Americans, Barnes reported that “19 bills specifically pertaining to transgender athletes and 54 anti-LGBTQ bills were filed in Texas over the course of its regular session and three special sessions, more than in any other state. Tennessee had the next highest number at 14 anti-LGBTQ bills.”
Sadly, this discrimination is also impacting many of the state’s youth. In 2017, UCLA’s Williams Institute estimated that Texas has one of the country’s largest populations of transgender youth.
After Abbott signed the anti-trans hate bill into law, Andrea Segovia, the field and policy coordinator for Transgender Education Network of Texas, called the governor out for his actions, saying, “this is adults bullying kids. At the heart of it is this body legislating trans people out of existence. We’re talking about public accommodations. Trans people exist in these spaces. When you’re letting bills like this become law, the message is, ‘We don’t want you in these spaces.’”