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West Virginia banned an 11-year-old trans girl from cross-country. So, she's suing the state.

Becky Pepper-Jackson just wants to run as part of the girls' cross-country team at Bridgeport Middle School.

West Virginia banned an 11-year-old trans girl from cross-country. So, she's suing the state.
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Becky Pepper-Jackson, now aged 11, first started running with her mother when she was just five years old. She also has two older brothers who started running at the same age. This year, she was hoping to join her school's cross-country team. However, when she tried to join the Bridgeport Middle School girls’ cross-country team in West Virginia, she was called into the principal's office along with her parents. The principal explained that Pepper-Jackson would not be able to join the team—because she is trans. H.B. 3293, a bill signed by Republican West Virginia Governor Jim Justice in April bans transgender girls from participating in school sports as their gender. Instead of accepting her fate, the 11-year-old is now suing the state in order to practice her right to join the team, LGBTQ+ Nation reports.


When Pepper-Jackson was informed she would not be able to join the girls' cross-country team, the principal said she could join the boys' team (even though she is not a boy). Therefore, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), she and her family are suing the West Virginia Department of Education. They have claimed that H.B. 3293 violates both the Constitution and Title IX, the federal law that bans discrimination in education on the basis of sex. According to the Biden administration, Title IX also includes anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.


The lawsuit also claims that the transgender sports ban violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This is because the law amounts to discrimination without a clear state interest: legislators’ claims that permitting transgender girls to play sports would lead to cisgender girls not being able to participate has no strong foundation. The lawsuit reads, "[The bill is based on] unfounded stereotypes, false scientific claims, and baseless fear and misunderstanding of girls who are transgender." In addition to this, the family cites the biased statements made while the legislature debated the bill. For instance, a state senator claimed that the "trans movement" was "an attack upon womanhood." Notably, before Governor Justice signed the bill into law, he said he could not "possibly get through [his] head” why others believed it was alright for trans students to be treated as their actual gender, rather than the gender they were assigned at birth.


Pepper-Jackson, nonetheless, is not ready to go down without a fight. "Knowing I cannot try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams just because I am a transgender girl is horrible and makes me feel angry and sad," Pepper-Jackson affirmed in a statement to the court. "It hurts to know that I will not be able to have a chance to run on the girls’ team like my friends can because I am a transgender girl. I do not want to run with the boys and I should not have to run with the boys." She also wants Governor Justice to know why this matters to her so much: "Running with the girls means a lot to me because I am a girl, and I should be treated like a girl. If I do not get to participate in cross-country or track, I will miss out on the opportunity to spend time with my friends and grow with a new team."


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