COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - A bill that would ban transgender women from playing on women’s sports teams is set to be debated in the House Judiciary subcommittee Tuesday.
The “Save Women’s Sports Act” or H3477 would make it state law that only people born with female anatomy can play on a women’s middle or high school-level sports team.
Rep. Ashley Trantham, R-Greenville, who is the primary sponsor of the bill said trans women competing on a woman’s team would be “absolutely taking opportunities away from women.”
While an opponent of this bill, Campaign for Southern Equality Community Director Ivy Hill, called it “dehumanizing.”
Trantham said the fight for this bill came after the Biden administration signed an executive order calling for transgender people to be able to compete on any sports team they want.
The executive order writes, “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” according to the White House website.
Trantham also said the South Carolina High School Sports League put out a memo making a similar statement in 2016. The SCHSL did not respond to request for comment at the time of publication.
The Greenville lawmaker said she is not coming to this issue from a place of prejudice and said she has been blessed to work with trans youth at her church.
“It’s not that I’m not compassionate about what they’re going through. But I would also point out, we have to think about how this is going to impact our girls,” Trantham said. “I mean they have to be able to have a level playing field and we just know based on the science that when we allow biological males to compete with our girls that we’re taking away that opportunity.”
Hill said this assessment is wrong and even sexist.
Hill added lawmakers should not be making these decisions and they are best left to medical experts and individual schools.
“You’re telling them that they’re not really a woman even though they are. And your body changes when you transition. Those things...they change your muscle mass and all of that,” Hill said.
One of Hill’s biggest concerns about this bill is the message it sends to the younger members of the trans community or those considering coming out.
“We know that trans youth are already at a greater risk for suicide, depression, [and] anxiety. We know that sports give kids an opportunity to build and learn lessons about teamwork, about self-discipline, about success and failure, and that it’s generally good for their mental and physical health,” Hill said. “So that we will be excluding youth who are already, much more vulnerable part of our population is shameful.”
A Lowcountry physician who works in a pediatric intensive care unit said she has seen the real-world impacts of the feelings of isolation and depression trans youth sometimes experience.
“I personally have seen multiple suicide attempts and completions by our trans youth related to the profound pressures that are on them. They do not need any more discrimination,” Dr. Elizabeth Mack said.
Mack added any debates surrounding the physical ability of a transgender girl compared to a cisgendered girl, a person who was born a female and identifies as female, are more complicated than supporters of this bill make it seem.
Mack also was concerned about issues of privacy surrounding this bill because it would require trans women to be outted. Trantham said they would use a student athlete’s physical to determine their gender as to not invade privacy.
However, for Trantham this fight feels personal.
As the mother of daughters who played high school sports and went on to receive athletic scholarships, she worries whether other student-athletes will have the same chances of success as her children did if this doesn’t pass.
“We’ve had women over the years that have just broken the glass ceiling, left and right, if we don’t address this, not only are we raising that glass ceiling but essentially we’re replacing the glass with titanium,” Trantham said.
Hill, Trantham, and Mack said this bill impacts a small part of our state’s population. According to a study by the William’s Institute, 0.7 percent of children ages 13 to 17 identify as transgender, which is more than roughly one in every 200 teenagers. But they all believe this bill is crucial for the people it does impact.
In a 2015 study, researchers found 82 percent of transgender adults had thoughts of suicide. It’s Hill’s hope to break that cycle by fighting bills like this.
“I don’t want it to sound like being trans is a dark or sad experience, but the reality is we do have a lot of conditional issues other folks don’t have to deal with already,” they said.
Trantham responded to Hill’s fears by saying she is willing to take a closer look at making sure co-ed teams have the same opportunities as single-gender teams, but she doesn’t feel it is “fair to sacrifice our girls’ sports.”
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741-741.