More Anti-Trans Athletes Bills Proposed in Ohio, Michigan, and Maine

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday March 10, 2021

This week, three more states — Ohio, Michigan, and Maine — have introduced bill aimed specifically at banning transgender athletes from competing based on their gender identity.

In Ohio, GOP Rep. Jena Powell has re-introduced the "Save Women's Sports Act" bill in the state legislature, saying that when it was introduced last year, it wasn't afforded a proper hearing, WKYC reports.

Powell repeated standard anti-trans tropes — which were reiterated in former President Trump's factually deficient speech at CPAC last month — about unfounded assumptions that genitalia, for all practical purposes, provides an unfair advantage: "What we're seeing nationwide is when we're having biological males compete against females, it robs females of their athletic opportunity." If passed, the bill would take precedence over Ohio High School Athletic Association guidelines that allow transgender athletes to compete.

According to Detroit Free Press, Michigan State Senate introduced a bill that would ban transgender athletes from playing with teams that align with their gender identity — transgender boys would not be able to play on boys' teams, and transgender girls could not play with girls' teams.

The bill, sponsored by GOP Senator Lana Theis (of Brighton) and twelve other Republicans, states, "If the school designates a team in an interscholastic athletic activity offered to pupils enrolled at the school as a girls', women's, or female team, a requirement that each pupil who competes for a position on that team or who is selected to compete on that team must be female based on biological sex." Enforcement and penalties for violations of the proposed law are not clear.

Describing the proposed bill as unconstitutional, Erin Knott, president of Equality Michigan, said "Kids learn a lot of important life lessons in sports: leadership, confidence, self-respect, and what it means to be part of a team.

"School officials shouldn't treat a transgender female student as a girl between 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. and then treat her like she's a boy when sports practice starts. It's deeply hurtful to the student and disrupts the school's policy of treating all kids fairly."

In Maine, a similar bill to that of Michigan's was introduced, stating that only cisgender women may join K-12 and collegiate sports teams, WGME reports. Furthermore, when an athlete's gender identity is challenged, they would have to provide medical documentation confirming their genitalia, as well as levels of testosterone or analyses of their chromosomes.

Rep. Beth O'Connor, a Republican from Berwick, feigned reluctance, "I was asked to introduce this bill. I did not jump on the opportunity right away" before saying she was prompted to do so after considering opportunities that transgender athletes might rob of her cisgender granddaughter. "This is an uneven playing field when you put someone in there that has a greater bone density, when they have a larger capacity, with their heart, their lungs," O'Connor said.

Quinn Gormley, executive director of Maine Transgender Network, said such assumptions that transgender girls hold physical advantages over cisgender girls "is unfounded." Furthermore, Gormley states, "We are deeply concerned that a legislator in Maine would propose such a harmful and invasive practice as a basis for public policy."

These proposed bills — in addition to those in 26 other states pursuing anti-trans legislation — appear to be Republican responses to an anti-trans discrimination executive order signed by President Joe Biden at the start of his term. The President's executive order was a reversal from his predecessor. Over the last four years, the Trump administration regularly rolled by rights and protections for LGBTQ people, particularly those in the transgender community.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.