Tennessee wants to tell transgender kids which sports teams they're allowed on

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The GOP-controlled Statehouse is advancing a bill that could ban students from playing on the team that corresponds with their gender identity.

Tennessee House lawmakers are advancing a bill that would require state elementary and high school students to be assigned to sports teams according to the gender marker on their birth certificate.

The bill, HB 1572, would effectively stop many transgender students from playing on the team consistent with their gender identity.

The Statehouse has been in recess since March due to the pandemic and will return in official capacity on June 1. Lawmakers have been holding committee meetings this week in order to discuss "a wide variety of bills" according to the Associated Press, HB 1572 being one of them.

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In addition to assigning students to certain teams, the bill would also prohibit a school from accepting revised or amended birth certificates and would block any school that does not comply with all those requirements from receiving state and local public funds.

If a state or local official is thought to have willfully or intentionally violated that rule, they could face a penalty of up to $10,000, immediate dismissal, and would be barred from working as a school administrator or holding public office for five years.

Idaho recently passed a similar bill back in March, stating that "athletic teams or sports designated for females, women, or girls shall not be open to students of the male sex." But Idaho's regulation subjects transgender students, and anyone whose sex is "in dispute," to get medical screenings.

According to the text of the Idaho bill, if the sex of a student is disputed, a student may provide a signed physician's statement that "indicates the student's sex based solely on "internal and external reproductive anatomy, the student's normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone," and "an analysis of the student's genetic makeup."

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Legal Voice filed a federal lawsuit against the Idaho law back in April, arguing that it is unconstitutional and a violation of Title IX, a federal civil rights law that says no one can be excluded, denied benefits, or subjected to discrimination on the basis of sex under an education program that receives federal funds.

"We're suing because HB 500 illegally targets women and girls who are transgender and intersex and subjects all female athletes to the possibility of invasive genital and genetic screenings," ACLU attorney Gabriel Arkles told NBC Out at the time. "In Idaho and around the country, transgender people of all ages have been participating in sports consistent with their gender identity for years."

In March, Idaho also passed a law allowing changes to birth certificates only to correct "a clerical or data entry error" but it prohibits changes to a person's gender markers. The state claimed that "biological distinctions between male and female are a matter of scientific fact, and biological sex is an objectively defined category that has obvious, immutable, and distinguishable characteristics."

The state is facing yet another civil rights lawsuit over that law.

The Tennessee bill is particularly restrictive when it comes to birth certificate changes. It prohibits amending one's gender marker on a birth certificate and specifically states that the "sex of an individual will not be changed on the original certificate of birth as a result of sex change surgery."

Ohio also prohibits changing one's gender marker. Fifteen other states require proof of sex reassignment surgery, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

Not all transgender people want surgeries or can afford them if they do. In some cases, such as in the District of Columbia and Massachusetts, the law notes that if a transgender person is under 18 years old, they can get a written request or affidavit from a parent, guardian, or legal representative to request the accurate gender designation.

GLSEN, an organization focused on ending bullying and discrimination against LGBTQ students, has repeatedly opposed laws that police transgender people's participation in sports and has spoken out against the Idaho law specifically.

"Public officials must not allow transgender students to be targeted for political gain or in the service of a radical anti-LGBTQ agenda," GLSEN executive director Eliza Byard stated in April. "In this time of national trauma and crisis, we need them to pursue policies that increase connection and community, and support all students."

Byard noted in an email that Idaho had passed the law during an election year and called it "an insidious coordinated national strategy" by far right legal activists determined to "undermine the rights and full citizenship of LGBTQ people."

Byard added, "We know that nearly half of transgender students report having seriously considered committing suicide within the past year. Above all, we know that transgender students need stronger connections to their teachers, classmates and school communities — exactly the kind of connections that school athletics can provide."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.