Missouri is the Sixth State to Propose Legislation Banning Transgender Athletes from High School Sports

Supermajority Education Fund

January 21, 2020

Lawmakers in the state of Missouri recently joined legislators in five other U.S. states in debating a ban on allowing transgender student-athletes to compete in sports as the gender to which they transitioned. In other words, these students would be required to compete in sports based on the gender assigned to them on their birth certificates.

Missouri State Senator Cindy O’Laughlin (R) proposed the bill based on her argument that gender has to do with athletic ability. Her logic is that someone who is assigned one gender at birth needs to compete with someone who was assigned the same gender so that their competitor is fairly matched to their strength, speed, and/or talent. 

“If you are a male, you cannot get in a female race and compete against a group of females,” O’Laughlin said to local news outlets. She went on to say that this legislation is “not a statement on how I feel about someone who is transgender or any of that, I believe all people should be respected. However, I don’t believe that the whole rest of the world needs to change rules and foundational beliefs to align with that situation.”

Three other red states, Georgia, Tennessee, and West Virginia, are debating their own bans. New Hampshire and Washington, who usually vote blue in elections, are also on the list. 

Georgia State Representative Philip Singleton (R), told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that this kind of legislation helps keep sports fair, as O’Laughlin suggested. 

“The Student Athlete Protection Act is designed to ensure that biological boys will only compete in sports against other biological boys and vice-versa for girls,” Singleton said. “The intent of my bill is to make sure every student has the opportunity to compete fairly.”

Shira Berkowitz, communication manager at PROMO, a statewide organization advocating for statewide LGBTQ equality, told Supermajority News that a bill like this is particularly harmful to transgender students who are already fighting to have a normal life in school. 

“Every student deserves a fair chance to stay healthy, be part of a team, play the sport they love, and build a sense of belonging with their peers—including students who are transgender,” Berkowitz said. “High school is hard enough for transgender students, who often face bullying, harassment, and mistreatment because of their gender identity. They shouldn’t be singled out for discrimination.”

Berkowitz added that when adult leaders misgender trans student-athletes on the track, field, or court, a place students choose to be after school, these athletes can feel very unsafe. 

“Schools across the country know that transgender students, like any student, thrive when they are treated with dignity and respect,” Berkowitz said. “School officials shouldn’t treat a transgender female student as a girl between 8 AM-3 PM 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.”