Alaska Senate Considers Bill to Limit Transgender Athletes in School Sports

Alaska Senate Considers Bill to Limit Transgender Athletes in School Sports

The Alaska Senate is considering a bill that would limit transgender children’s participation in school sports. The bill is similar to those advanced in states with Republican-controlled legislatures signed into law by Republican governors.

But the House’s bipartisan majority coalition will likely block the bill even if it passes the Senate, House Education co-chair Rep. Harriet Drummond, D-Anchorage, said in an interview Thursday.

“It will probably stay in the drawer and not be heard from,” Drummond said. “We’re trying to make things easier for schools, not harder.”

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, said the bill would ensure the playing field remains even for female athletes in the state, though she could not cite any examples of dominant transgender athletes in Alaska.

Several high-level transgender female athletes have garnered Warning for the podium and record performances, but some say these are the exception to the rule; many other transgender athletes participate in sports without concealing cisgender competitors, that is, their gender identity matches the one they were assigned at birth.

Hughes said she was compelled to introduce the bill after hearing from concerned parents and coaches.

“I think we are more worried about this possibility, but there is already anxiety among the girls who have competed. They are very nervous because they see what is happening in other places, ”said Hughes in an interview, “If you’re going to play sports, it’s a big commitment and a big sacrifice. And we don’t want girls deciding not to because they realize, ‘Hey, I I might not be able to win this place.”

In 2016, Haines High School track and field athlete Nattaphon “Ice” Wangyot, a transgender girl, competed in the Alaskan Track and Field Championships as a senior. She was outclassed by several cisgender competitors, including Tanner Hart, née Ealum, who won 13 Alaska State women’s track and field titles while at Anchorage Christian School before graduating in 2016. .

Hart spoke in favor of the bill at a hearing on Thursday, saying competing against transgender athletes “is unfair and not fair.”

Allowing transgender athletes to participate in women’s sports “forces (cisgender) women to be at a disadvantage,” she said.

Hart was one of more than 30 former Alaska School athletes and coaches who signed a letter supporting the bill, pointing out some lingering biological differences between transgender and cisgender girls.

Mike Garvey, advocacy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, said transgender children have been playing sports for years. In many cases, like Wangyot’s, the other competitors don’t know they’re up against a transgender athlete. But when they’re dominant, their success is “very public and politicized,” Garvey said in an interview.

“The fact that an occasional trans person succeeds in sport is not a reason to exclude all trans athletes from sport, especially young trans people who, as a result of this exclusion, suffer immense harm,” Garvey said. , adding that the bill could jeopardize their mental and mental health. physical health.

The Alaska School Activities Association has a Transgender Student Involvement Policy that allows schools to determine whether a student can participate in a team that matches the student’s preferred gender based on “prior written criteria and goals adopted by the school”. If the student attends a school without a written policy, they can only participate based on their assigned sex at birth. The association does not make separate determinations of gender identity.

Billy Strickland, director of the Alaska School Activities Association, said the policy has not elicited significant pushback from parents, coaches or athletes.

“There was a very small number of coaches who didn’t like politics even though their school districts liked it, but it was very limited,” Strickland said. “We had no schools or districts that were protesting.”

Under the proposal Senate Bill 140, school sports teams should be designated as male, female or mixed. Participation in a women’s sports team would be based on “the biological sex of the participant”. A definition of biological sex is not provided for in the bill. Students could sue privately for injunctive relief and damages if they believe they have been denied an athletic opportunity guaranteed by the bill.

Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, pointed to similar bills in other states that have been challenged in court and struck down. Begich said the Alaska Legislative Legal Services found the Hughes-sponsored bill to be unconstitutional.

The Senate Education Committee postponed public testimony on the bill to a hearing scheduled for March 12 “due to the volume of testimony received via email,” said committee chairman Sen. Roger Holland, R. -Anchorage. A Hollande staffer said more than 100 emails had already been received commenting on the bill.

Across the country, Republican-controlled states have passed similar bills even as civil rights and transgender groups have pushed back, citing a negative impact on the mental and physical health of transgender youth.

On Thursday, Iowa became the last state to pass a bill limiting the participation of transgender athletes in school sports. Other states with similar laws on the books include South Dakota, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, and Texas. Enforcement of a 2020 Idaho law is suspended after a federal judge rules it is likely to be declared unconstitutional.