Opinion: Show support for transgender girls

“[The bill] seeks to exclude a tiny minority of transgender grade and high school athletes from participating on school teams designated for girls,” writes Buttrick.

“[The bill] seeks to exclude a tiny minority of transgender grade and high school athletes from participating on school teams designated for girls,” writes Buttrick. Pixabay


Published: 05-17-2024 12:55 PM

John Buttrick writes from his Vermont Folk Rocker in his Concord home, Minds Crossing. He can be reached at johndbuttrick@gmail.com

It is no surprise that some people are uncomfortable when issues of sex and gender are acknowledged to be a part of the life of school children in the grades and in high school. Living into and through puberty raises many feelings and questions. Yet rather than listening to the questions and recognizing the feelings of young people, some authorities go to judgment.

For example, rather than creating an environment to learn about transgender identity and gender expression, authorities choose to judge it to be a disruptive anomaly outside mainstream relationships and therefore to be excluded from consideration. This isolation leads to false impressions about a transgender person and they lose the right to be included in social interaction.

These false impressions influenced the passing by the Senate the bill that prohibits transgender girls from participating in girls’ team sports. This new law is based on the misinformed idea that transgender girls’ participation in girls’ sports threatens the safety and fairness of the girls on the team. Therefore, a tiny minority of transgender grade and high school athletes may now be restricted from participating in school teams designated for girls. The urgency to isolate this less than 1% of women (0.5% of high school athletes) who identify as transgender, is way out of proportion to their numbers and reality.

Also, this bill threatens the self-esteem of transgender girls. The Monitor reported that even the lead sponsor of HB 1205, Rep. Louise Andrus, said that she wasn’t sure how to identify a girl’s sex other than with a birth certificate. She would leave the Department of Education to come up with other tests if necessary to prove that a girl was not transgender. The American Psychology Association defines transgender as an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.

“Currently, there is no direct or consistent research suggesting transgender female individuals have an athletic advantage at any stage of their transition (e.g. cross-sex hormones, gender-confirming surgery) and, therefore, competitive sport policies that place restrictions on transgender people need to be revised.” The majority of transgender competitive sport policies that were reviewed were not evidence based. Therefore, there is no justice in separating out transgender women from other women. It just puts unneeded stress on their self-esteem and separates them from the rights of all human beings.

Unfortunately, the misinformed thinking embedded in the law is shared with 25 states who have transgender athlete bans, 18 of them targeting transgender girls only. Well-established research shows transgender girls, among all LGBTQ+ persons, are at a higher risk for anxiety, depression, substance misuse, disordered eating, homelessness, and suicide. Since youth participation in sports have been linked to better academic and health outcomes, it would seem to make sense to encourage transgender girls, and all LGBTQ+ people, to participate in school sports.

Furthermore, Columbia University school of Public Health reports that the commonly cited belief that transgender girls and women will dominate sports is unfounded, as there is currently no scientific evidence that transgender people have an athletic advantage. Transgender athletes have been eligible for Olympic, professional, and NCAA competition for years, without any instance of trans dominance in sports.

It is an embarrassment to live in a state whose legislature has put the social lives of a minority group of girls in jeopardy based upon transgender innuendo and ignorance. There needs to be more research and more academic studies in order to make wise decisions. The Senate vote in favor of this restrictive law leaves it up to Gov. Sununu to act. Given the current lack of responsible research, given the negative bias toward minority transgender girls, and given the significantly positive effects on the lives of student athletes; it is imperative that the governor veto this bill.

Then steps must be taken to promote the health of all students, with a policy that allows transgender students to participate in the sports category associated with their gender identity without restrictions. New Hampshire must join with the, at least, 16 states that facilitate the full inclusion of transgender students in high school athletics. It will be good for the transgender girls and also for the moral integrity of the citizens.