Sunny Bryant, an 8-year-old transgender girl from Texas, enjoys playing baseball and gymnastics.
According to her mother, Rebekah Bryant, she has also been “begging” to play soccer. Sunny, who currently plays on co-ed teams, is aware that she may not be able to play on girls-only teams in the future. Some lawmakers in her state have attempted to keep her off of girls’ sports teams in the future and force her to play with boys.
Texas Senate Bill 29 would have required public school students to compete on sports teams and in competitions based on their sex at birth. It was being debated in the state legislature, but the House ran out of time during the legislative session.
“We all know something like this will happen again… This pain, which we felt during the session, does not go away immediately “Bryant stated.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, the measure was one of more than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in state legislatures across the country. Florida recently joined Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, and West Virginia in enacting anti-transgender sports legislation similar to that proposed in Texas. One area of focus for the legislation – and a cultural flashpoint – has been youth sports, and Texas is just one of more than 30 states that have introduced legislation prohibiting transgender youth from participating in sports teams of their corresponding gender.
Rebekah Bryant testified against the legislation in front of the Texas House Committee on Public Education in April. She explained to Sunny what she was fighting for before making the trip to Austin to speak out in support of her daughter. She recounted Sunny’s story in her testimony, saying her daughter had known she was a girl since she was four years old. She told the lawmakers she imagined what it would be like for a 16-year-old Sunny to play on a team that does not reflect her gender identity.
“She’s a young woman with long blonde hair and blue eyes, but she has to play on the boys’ soccer team,” she explained. “She’ll be alone in the locker room, she won’t share many of her teammates’ interests, and she may even be bullied and harassed by teammates, opponents, and parents.” Some Texas lawmakers, such as Republican state Sen. Charles Perry, argue that the bill ensures fairness in girls’ sports by citing biological differences.
The wave of legislation, according to Annie Lieberman, the director of policy programs for Athlete Ally, an advocacy group that works for inclusive policies in sports, will only worsen conditions for an already vulnerable community.
Almost half of transgender youth surveyed by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center said they had seriously considered suicide. According to CDC reports, trans youth frequently report feeling isolated and excluded in academic settings, and that discrimination puts them at an increased risk for poor mental health, suicide, substance abuse, violence, and other health risks.
According to research published in The American Journal of Public Health, welcoming school environments that prohibit bullying and harassment in schools have been linked to positive outcomes for these students.
Transgender athletes are permitted to compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the Olympics, and the governing bodies of the United States’ national sports leagues. Concerned Women for America, a conservative Christian organization, is opposed to trans girls and women participating in women’s sports, but claims that advocating for protections for female athletes is important “does not imply support for transgender athletes. “According to Lieberman, there is no evidence that trans athletes are disproportionately dominating sports that correlate with their gender identity or that they have an advantage in their sport. Dr. Eric Vilain, a geneticist who studies sex differences in athletes, told NPR that testosterone has no effect on performance in a small number of athletic disciplines and provides no advantage. Texas bill that was under consideration does not cite any evidence of this either.