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219 House Republicans vote for bill allowing discrimination against transgender kids

The House passed a bill on Thursday that would bar transgender, gender-nonconforming, and intersex student athletes from participating in school sports.

By Josh Israel - April 20, 2023
A trans pride flag is displayed behind a speaker at an anti-trans event at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
A counter-protester displays a trans pride flag behind a speaker at a "Free Speech for Women" anti-trans event at the Lincoln Memorial. The event was hosted by British anti-trans activist Kellie-Jay Keen and her group, Standing for Women. Keen and the group object to gender-inclusive and -affirming policies, language, and sports. (Photo by Allison Bailey/NurPhoto via AP)

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would require that schools that receive federal funding discriminate against transgender kids who want to play amateur sports 219 to 203. Every present Republican voted in favor and every Democrat voted against the bill.

H.R. 734, titled the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023, would define sex “based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth” and would deny federal Title IX funding and other assistance to any entity that permits “a person whose sex is male to participate in an athletic program or activity that is designated for women or girls.”

According to the Congressional Equality Caucus, practically it would mean transgender girls, intersex kids, and nonbinary students would not be able to compete in sports matching their gender identity and could force cisgender women to undergo inspections to prove they are really female.

The bill’s lead sponsor, Florida Republican Rep. Greg Steube, argued in a Wednesday floor speech that transgender and intersex people do not exist, citing Bible verses and old dictionaries:

Genesis 1:27: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 5:1-2: “When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them.” Jesus stated in Mark 10:6, “But at the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.” Also in Matthew 19:4, “At the beginning, the Creator made them male and female.” For thousands of years, in human history, we have recognized as a species that there are women and there are men who are obviously biologically different, dare I say even scientifically different, and even science agrees with this premise. Yet over the last several years, there has been a perversion in our culture by the enemy. And the left has completely embraced the lie, to erase the lines of gender and to convince you there isn’t really gender and that gender is fluid and can be whatever you want, whenever you want. Again, more lies.

“The radical left has adopted completely made-up terms that didn’t even exist just a few short years ago, like nonbinary cisgender, trans male, trans female,” Steube said. “I have three dictionaries in my house. One was copyrighted in 1828, one was copyrighted in 1959, and one was copyrighted in 1988. Shockingly, nowhere in any of these dictionaries are the terms nonbinary or trans man or trans woman.”

The historian Catherine Armstrong points out in an article published on the website Yes! magazine in 2021 that transgender and gender-nonconforming people have existed throughout all of recorded history:

Why is it then that they’re often absent from the tales and lists of historical figures we hear about? The answer lies, in part, with how history is recorded and who records it. People who belong to groups that fear being ostracized and persecuted often only reveal their true selves to a few people. As a result, the visibility of LGBT+ people, even during moments in history when they have faced hostility, is often limited. Coupled with that is a dearth of historical records because authors of these historical accounts were often prejudiced and did not want to record the experiences of those considered shameful under the values of their time.

Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT) backed the bill, arguing: “We cannot sit back and watch biological males rob biological women of equal athletic opportunities. We need to stop putting feelings of boys and men above fairness and opportunities for girls and women. With this upside down of feelings over fairness, we’re also stealing from our young men a major component of their self-esteem: the inborn and innate desire to respect and protect womanhood.”

Geneticists have disputed claims that transgender athletes have an unfair advantage. Dr. Eric Vilain of the University of California, Irvine, told NPR on April 9: “Some are making the argument that the difference between boys and girls should translate directly into concluding that there will be the same difference between trans and cisgender girl athletes. But there is no good evidence for this, in part because many cases are going to be different, some having undergone blocking of puberty at different ages.”

Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-WY) also supported the legislation, saying, “It’s amazing, but telling, that the same people who scolded us about following the science during COVID have attempted to do anything but follow actual science when it comes to men and boys in women’s sports.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association have consistently affirmed that transgender people exist; they oppose bills like this one, which they say are harmful because they increase stigma and exclude kids who are vulnerable to depression and suicide from activities that positively impact mental health.

The bill comes as Republicans in Congress and in state legislatures across the country have pushed hundreds of bills this year alone that discriminate against transgender kids and adults, preventing them from accessing gender-affirming medical care, barring them from using bathrooms for those that match their gender identity, and prohibiting teachers from acknowledging that LGBTQ+ people exist.

California Democratic Rep. Mark Takano opposed the bill and noted that it would harm both transgender kids and cisgender kids who may not appear stereotypically feminine:

Contrary to my Republican colleagues’ claims, H.R. 734 actually makes school sports less safe for women and girls. To enforce its ban on transgender student athletes, the bill would require all girls, as young as in their preteens to “prove their gender.” For example, under Utah’s blanket ban on transgender student participation in school sports, parents of the second- and third-place finishers in a state-level girls competition complained to the Utah High School Activities Association that they suspected the winner of the event was trans. Following the complaint, the school was forced to investigate the student by combing through her records by going back to kindergarten. She was in fact not transgender.

The bill now moves to the Democratic-led Senate, where it is unlikely to be brought up for a vote. President Joe Biden has vowed to veto it if it reaches his desk.

A Statement of Administration Policy issued on Monday by the Executive Office of the President says: “At a time when transgender youth already face a nationwide mental health crisis, with half of transgender youth in a recent survey saying they have seriously considered suicide, a national law that further stigmatizes these children is completely unnecessary, hurts families and students, and would only put students at greater risk. Discrimination has no place in our nation’s schools or on our playing fields.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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