Tennessee, ignoring NCAA guidelines, will fine schools $10,000 for not following the new rules should the bill be passed.
The Bible Belt is at it again. A newly introduced bill in Tennessee would make students - regardless of age or gender - play sports based on the gender they were assigned at birth, that is, the gender stated on their birth certificates, CNN reports. As expected, the bill has been highly criticized by gender activists, many of whom have called it "demeaning." However, the bill's sponsors argue that it is simply "proactive." While proponents of the bill argue that it would maintain fairness, trans activists believe that the potential consequences are far worse; the "draconian" bill, they affirm, could result in gender dysphoria, which comes with its own hoard of dangers.
The bill was introduced last month by its sponsor, state Representative Bruce Griffey. He claimed that the bill would act as a "proactive measure" and that it was intended to "maintain fairness," especially for female athletes. According to the Representative, males have "larger hearts" and greater upper body strength, which could give trans women an upper hand when playing sports against cis women. "It's not intended to demean, degrade, or diminish anyone," Griffey asserted. "It's just trying to maintain fairness." When it comes to trans men, Representative Griffey does not have a "simple solution." He merely repeated that "males have a genetic advantage" and that it isn't "fair to put the burden on the girls."
However, not everyone sees it from Griffey's perspective. As per several gender activists, the bill is oppressive. Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ rights, affirmed that the bill would prevent trans students from participating in sports. Furthermore, he argued that it would "force students to be something they aren't and portray a gender identity that isn't who they are." "That is demeaning," he stressed. He also noted that the penalties enforced for disregarding the rule are "draconian."
Should schools choose not to abide by the guidelines if and when they do become law, they would no longer receive public funding. In addition to this, the school in question could face a civil lawsuit and be liable to pay a fine upwards of $10,000. Finally, individual school officials could also face consequences. Should a school employee be found to have violated the rule, they can be fired and would be considered ineligible to hold public office or a position in school administration in the state for a period of five years. "That shows there's something more at work here than your run-of-the-mill, 'We want fair competition,'" Sanders stated. "This is a level of animus at transgender students that is unprecedented."
A similar bill was introduced in South Dakota in February 2019. The bill would have prevented trans high school students from playing on sports teams based on their gender identity, forcing them to play on sports teams based on the gender assigned at birth instead. Thankfully, the bill died in the South Dakota Legislature. One reason it did could be attributed to the fact that the bill, like the one introduced in Tennessee, did not follow the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)'s guidelines. The association lays out guidelines based on which gender a student is transitioning to and hormone use, both contradictory to the rules in the newly introduced bill. Tennessee's 2020 legislative session is set to begin on January 14. The bill is expected to be assigned to a committee once the session opens. Hopefully, state legislators will listen to the voices of gender activists and trans students, who for so long have been marginalized by oppressive policy.