On Monday, NPR reported that South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem signed two executive orders that would prohibit anyone from participating in an all-women’s sport team unless they were assigned female at birth.
The executive orders were created in response to HB 1217, a bill that was passed by South Dakota House republicans and designed to prohibit transgender athletes from playing on teams that aligned with their gender identity. Noem was unhappy with the legal language included in the original bill, and asked lawmakers to revise it so that it would stand up to deeper legal scrutiny. When the House republicans were unable to do so, Noem signed the two executive orders: The first one is to address teams at the K-12 grade level, while the other addresses college athletics, directing the state’s Board of Regents and Department of Education to enact these regulations.
In short, the orders prohibit girls and women from playing on teams designed for girls and women unless their original birth certificate had them marked down as female.
Given what we now know about the spectrum of gender, the move seems punitive at the very least, and deeply transphobic at its core. So much has been written about how transgender athletes don’t have any advantage or disadvantages when it comes to sports by actual professionals and medical experts, that you have to wonder if the people coming advocating for these laws solely get their science from Facebook memes.
The backlash to these executive orders has been swift and furious. The Human Rights Campaign recently shared a tweet that included the line, “trans youth belong in sports” and soccer star Megan Rapinoe wrote about how laws like this hurt trans youth in a piece that ran in The Washington Post.
“Women’s organizations, including the Women’s Sports Foundation, National Women’s Law Center and Gender Justice, along with sports icons including Billie Jean King and Candace Parker, agree that transgender girls and women belong in sports and should be able to participate alongside other girls and women,” she wrote. “Discrimination hurts everyone. We’re stronger as teams, and as a country, when all people who love sports have a chance to have their lives changed for the better, just like I did.”
This order is just one of the aggressive pieces of legislation designed to attack trans children and adults this week, prompting the week designated as Trans Week of Action (March 24-31) to focus on the fight for transgender rights in Alabama, South Dakota, and Arkansas.
“These bills aren’t about sports,” Chase Strangio wrote in a tweet on March 28 before sharing a link to a Medium post he wrote five years ago. “They aren’t even about health care. They are about getting rid of trans people. It was restrooms then locker rooms now it’s sports and health care and pronouns.”
As of March 6, 2021, there were approximately 44 anti-trans bills awaiting legislation in the U.S. according to the website Pink Mantaray. “Most of the bills are attacking trans kids,” the website notes. “Most of the sports bills are attacking trans girls.” Which prompts us to remind everyone that transgender rights are human rights.
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