Tennessee inches closer to making vile trans school sport ban a reality

Women line up to sprint on a running track

Tennessee senators voted to effectively ban trans youth from participating in middle and high school sports corresponding to their gender Monday night (1 March).

The Tennessee Senate voted 27-6 to approve SB228/HB3, filed by Republican senator Joey Hensley and representative Scott Cepick in January, which would ban trans athletes from competing as the correct gender.

The ban would apply to all trans kids, including those with access to gender-affirming healthcare, such as hormone therapy.

According to The Tennessean, the bill will now head for a final House vote. No date is scheduled for the vote at the time of writing.

But with the bill receiving backing from Republican governor Bill Lee – who once told reporters “that transgenders participating in women’s sports will destroy women’s sports” – it seems likely to proceed with little pushback.

Republicans admit there isn’t a problem with trans student athletes

Sponsors of the bill have struggled to provide any statistical evidence of how many trans teens take part in middle and high school sports. Most testimonies provided by legislators on the chamber floors has been purely anecdotal.

Hensley, at one point, peddled the myth that trans athletes have an “unfair advantage” in sports. The so-called performance gap, according to activists, is a sweeping generalisation.

The bill’s supporters even acknowledged that the bill was drawn up to tackle a “problem” that doesn’t even exist and has little evidence backing it.

“To say it’s not a problem in Tennessee may be true,” said Republican senator Kerry Roberts, “but it will be a problem in Tennessee probably sooner than we think.”

Moreover, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA), which administrates statewide school sporting events, has never encountered an “issue” with trans students taking part, the organisation’s general counsel Rick Colbert said in a previous interview with The Tennessean.

“The issue has not arisen in Tennessee, at least to TSSAA’s knowledge,” Colbert, who has held the top spot for 35 years, said.

Tennessee is just one of at least 21 states that have sought to stonewall trans teen athletes from taking part in school sports in some way – a national trend that has deeply troubled and alarmed LGBT+ campaigners.

Such bans, according to top LGBT+ advocates, are “discriminatory, harmful and unscientific” and, more often than not, rely on widely debunked myths.

According to a 2019 survey from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just two per cent of high school students in the US are trans.