On Thursday, May 27, cheers erupted in the Louisiana senate chamber as legislators passed a bill banning trans girls and women from participating in women’s athletics.
Sen. Beth Mizell of Franklinton passed her bill with a vote of 29-6 in the Senate and 78-17 in the House, gaining the support of not just her GOP colleagues, but also some Democrats. Gov. John Bel Edwards has signaled that he would oppose such legislation, calling the bill “unnecessary and discriminatory and very hurtful for those individuals” and saying that “there’s not a compelling reason to do it.”
The law had a veto-proof majority of support, though it is unclear if legislators would override what is a likely veto from Edwards.
Mizell called the bill a proactive measure, likely because she could not name a single instance in Louisiana of trans athletes competing being an issue. This legislation is an imagined grievance born of prejudice; a solution in search of a problem.
The statistics that describe life for many transgender youth are deeply troubling, and our legislators work to worsen that pain. Research from the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, found that, compared to their cisgender peers, transgender youth were four-and-a-half times more likely to report feeling unsafe at school, almost five times more likely to be “threatened or injured with a weapon at school” and five times more likely to have attempted suicide in the past year.
It is disgraceful that these legislators so callously ignore the damage this legislation could inflict on trans youth. This bill sends the message that trans girls and women are “others” and worsens the social conditions with which trans people are already forced to grapple.
Sports provide an opportunity for character-building, physical and mental health benefits, friendship and fun – something every child should be allowed to participate in. Removing this outlet for trans girls is destructive and discriminatory. It takes a special kind of cruelty for lawmakers not only to pass such a law, but celebrate it.
This legislation also seems to forget that trans people are underrepresented in athletics and have been able to compete in various athletic organizations for years.
Trans athletes have been allowed to openly participate in the Olympics since 2003, but no trans person has ever competed. The NCAA “firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports” and have allowed trans athletes to play for almost a decade. There have been no issues of fairness found in either of these organizations, and conservative fear-mongering that trans women will dominate over cisgender women is a baseless excuse for discrimination that ignores the fact that trans women have been allowed to compete at elite levels for years without a problem.
But supporters of this bill are likely not interested in these facts. The alienation of trans people isn’t simply a side effect of this legislation, but its unspoken objective. Throughout the legislative session, lawmakers have raised numerous anti-trans bills, including a bill that would restrict access to medical care for trans youth, which thankfully died in committee after 400 cards were submitted in opposition.
This state faces enormous problems that have only been exacerbated by the tragedy of the last year. Instead of using their time to address pressing social and economic issues, lawmakers spun a non-existent problem out of far-right talking points to attack trans people. Clearly, many Louisiana legislators are more concerned with scoring conservative culture war points than serving their constituents.
We do not have to allow intolerance in Louisiana, nor in the hearts of those that are supposed to represent the people of this state.
Claire Sullivan is an 18-year-old coastal environmental science sophomore from Southbury, CT.