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Opinion
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Guest Column
Florida transgender youth lost in this legislative session, as did human decency | Column
Transgender students want the same opportunity to play sports that every student does: to be a part of a team, give back to a collective pursuit, and feel like they belong.
Why are we discriminating against any student by banning them from playing sports just because they’re transgender?
Why are we discriminating against any student by banning them from playing sports just because they’re transgender?
Published May 5
Updated May 5

This year, state legislators across the United States have introduced 35 bills restricting transgender youth from participating in sports aligned with their gender identity. And now it has happened in Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, says he will sign a bill that bans transgender youth from participating in scholastic sports in Florida.

Orlando Gonzales
Orlando Gonzales [ Provided ]

At first, it looked like the bill would die. HB 1475, a bill seeking to ban transgender athletes from participating in sex-segregated athletics, passed the Florida House, then stalled in the Senate. But an amendment with the ban was added at the last moment to a bill about charter schools, SB 1028, and was passed by the Republican majority amid an outcry from Democrats during a controversial late-night session last week.

Florida is among some 30 states where Republican lawmakers have seized on the transgender athlete issue after it was highlighted by conservative leadership at February’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). To be clear, Republicans are purposely harming children, specifically transgender students, for political gain.

To say we are deeply disappointed by these fear-mongering actions would be an understatement. Transgender youth deserve equal chances to learn teamwork, sportsmanship, leadership and self-discipline, and to build a sense of belonging with their peers. Don’t we deserve to belong in our communities?

Sadly, this bill is not the only one trying to restrict transgender women from participating in sports. The New York Times reports, citing the ACLU, that at least 25 states have had similar bills introduced during this year’s legislative sessions. This demonstrates a coordinated effort that is well-funded to harm LGBTQ youth. While as a nation we try to heal and re-unify after the Trump years, conservative states have taken to attacking children as their means for political gains. Where is the compassion and human decency?

This fight is much bigger than state-level legislation. Earlier this year, President Joe Biden signed an executive order aimed at protecting LGBTQ rights. That order stated, “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.” Legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives under the leadership of David Cicilline, D-R.I., have also reintroduced the Equality Act, which would establish federal non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community at the highest level of government. On the opposing side of history, former President Donald Trump made anti-trans bills like HB 1475, and its Senate companion SB 2012, and those seen across the United States a priority for his party at CPAC earlier this year.

As we continue to advocate for LGBTQ rights in Florida, we are disheartened to see legislators turn their backs on the community and support a bill that directly harms and ostracizes children that are living as their authentic selves. The worst part? They know better.

Why are we discriminating against any student by banning them from playing sports just because they’re transgender? Transgender students want the same opportunity to play sports that every student does: to be a part of a team, give back to a collective pursuit, and feel like they belong.

In the end, the legislators are harming children to score points with their conservative base. At the end of the day, they are wasting taxpayer dollars on what will go to the courts and certainly be struck down as unconstitutional.

They know better and are hurting children for their political gain.

Orlando Gonzales is executive director of SAVE (Safeguarding American Values for Everyone), South Florida’s longest-serving organization dedicated to protecting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) against discrimination.