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Two Ohio Bills Propose Banning Transgender Student Athletes From Play

Roughly 35 bills are being proposed in 20 state legislatures that would limit or prohibit transgender women from competing in women's athletics.
Phil Roeder
Roughly 35 bills are being proposed in 20 state legislatures that would limit or prohibit transgender women from competing in women's athletics.

Ohio Senate Bill 132 and Ohio House Bill 61 both propose to ban transgender students at all school levels from playing on the sports teams that align with their gender identity. House Bill 61 has its first hearing in the Primary and Secondary Education Committee Meeting on Wednesday morning.

About 35 similar bills have been introduced at the state level across the country. Eight bills have been signed into law this year, and ten more are still being deliberated.

Kayla Hayes is part of the NCAA Division III OneTeam Initiative group who signed an open letter in support of transgender student athletes. She is the Associate Head Women’s Basketball Coach at Denison University, and facilitates diversity and inclusion training for Denison Athletics. She has guided one coach on how to navigate a transgender student moving to a new team after transitioning.

“The coach asked me, well, what team should the student athlete be on,” Hayes said. “And I told them that’s not my choice, that’s not your choice, that’s the student athlete’s choice.”

Hayes said that the arguments for these kinds of bills are not based in the growing scientific understanding of hormone therapy or gender identity.

“They see it as a boy on a girl’s team instead of a girl on a girl’s team,” Hayes said.

A year of hormone therapy that blocks testosterone and increases estrogen levels — along with a parent’s permission — qualifies transgender girls to play on women’s sports teams in Ohio high schools. Transgender boys in high school undergo a similar qualification process to participate on men’s teams.

Timothy Bussey is the associate director of Kenyon College’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office, and also signed the NCAA letter. Bussey said that if the bill in Ohio is passed, it would reverse the policy that’s already in place and create administrative confusion.

“You’re going to have trans men being told they have to play on women’s teams,” Bussey said. “And trans women, who are going to have to be told they have to play on men’s teams. It actually, in terms of the administrative side of things, makes a complete mess.”

The bill doesn’t specify if trans men who have already been cleared to play would be allowed to switch to women’s teams if the bill passes.

If the bill is passed, any student athlete accused of being trans would have to prove their gender identity through testing. One of the three tests is a physical examination of external genitalia.

Bussey said examinations of students’ genitalia would open up opportunities for abuse and bullying.

“This isn’t even just a bill that would affect just trans students,” Bussey said. "This is affecting anyone who the accusation of being trans would be lodged against.”

Under the bills, any student accused of being transgender would have to prove they are cisgender, meaning they identify as the same gender assigned to them at birth. A doctor would have to test their blood or chromosomes or do a physical examination. Bussey said these tests are considered non-emergency services, which insurance often doesn’t cover.

The bill’s language also ignores the growing number of kids in Generation Z who don’t identify as male or female. Bussey said the way most sports split male and female teams is already excluding people who fall outside of those genders.

“Something as simple as a locker room, just by virtue of its design sometimes, can actually not validate that identity,” Bussey said.

A 2019 Gallup poll reported that a third of Generation Z knows someone who uses pronouns outside of the she/her and he/him gender binary, a higher rate than previous generations.