On the first day of Pride month, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made his stance on trans rights clear. He signed a bill called the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which prevents trans women and girls from participating in athletic teams that are “designed” for “biological” women. There’s a lot to unpack, so here are the main reasons this bill is not only harmful and exclusionary to trans women but detrimental to all women.
It Perpetuates Transphobia
The very obvious reason this bill is damaging to women is that it is targeted at trans women. The fact that DeSantis chose the first day of Pride month to publicly sign the bill has demonstrated his negative intent towards the trans community. Transphobia is not new in the U.S.; very similar bills have already been passed in seven other states and proposed in 27. This bill is one more upsetting act of transphobia against the trans community and the implications of othering more trans individuals is incredibly harmful. Throughout 2020, approximately 44 trans and gender-nonconforming individuals were violently murdered. Hate crimes are not even close to uncommon in the trans community, but instead of protecting this community, lawmakers are turning a blind eye to these issues and perpetuating them further.
The main argument supporting the Fairness in Women’s Sports act is based in flawed biology:
The belief is that men are biologically stronger than women, therefore “biological men” participating in women’s sports must not be accepted.
However, biology is not a binary:
to claim there are only two genders that correspond to only two sexes is wrong and it is not based in biology.
This claim isolates and undermines the sexually diverse nature of people, such as intersex individuals, and those with hormonal and chromosome disorders.
To look at individuals through the lens of the gender binary, a social construct, in an attempt to connect it to biology is and always has been harmful.
Aside from how rigid the biology argument is, it is also damaging to view trans women as men romping around pretending to be women because this is almost never the case; trans women are women and deserve to be treated as such. The decision to transition for many individuals is heavy; potentially losing family, friends, and becoming a target for hate is an awful lot to endure. Many trans women will convey that they have never felt like men at all, and scientific evidence states that after beginning hormone therapy, trans individuals experience more confidence, higher self-esteem, and less gender-dysphoria. Anyone who has ever taken the liberty to listen to a trans individual will hear of similar experiences.
It is also important to recognize that once starting hormone therapy, trans individuals undergo biological changes. For trans women, decreases in muscle mass, fat redistribution, changes in hair patterns and other changes occur when an individual transitions.
Even if these changes did not occur, or an individual transitions without hormone therapy, the amount of hostility towards trans women is unacceptable and generally unnecessary; to be so involved in someone’s life decisions as to create laws against them is inhumane. It’s hard to believe policymakers are using sports as an excuse when many women of different body types and abilities can compete against each other. The ability to succeed at a sport goes far beyond brute physical strength or athletic prowess; the ability to work with others and strategize are equally important skills. However, the Fairness in Women’s Sports act prevents trans women, especially trans youth, from being able to cultivate these skills with others. Protecting women’s fairness in sports should not come at the expense of other women.
It Stifles Feminism
As if the blatant attack on trans rights and safety is not enough, the Fairness in Women’s Sports act fails to fulfill its purpose: protecting women and girls. After publicizing that he had signed the bill, Governor DeSantis stated it was to protect the integrity of women’s sports. Is forcing women and girls prove their sex protecting them? This is just one of the many concerns regarding the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, and here are others:
A harmful precedent is set for how women and girls should look/act
This bill, in writing, is riddled with judgements on how women and girls fit into a certain set of expectations: those that have been molded by the gender binary and systemic sexism for decades. When reading this bill, it appears as an attack on feminism; being critical of women and judging them for their physical appearance is not protecting anyone.
If DeSantis really wanted to protect women, why has he made it that vulnerable young girls must receive their parent’s consent before accessing abortion? These same youth he has vowed to protect could lose their bodily autonomy at the hands of their parents.
These actions show DeSantis does not actually value the rights of young women any more than those of transgender women. In fact, he has set out to divide them.
Women must not be divided by politicians who don’t have concern for their wellbeing, they must resist being used as a tool for political momentum and transphobic agendas.
Sets precedent of how women should perform in sports
Whether they were assigned female at birth or chose to identify as one later in life, everyone is going to look and act differently, which means they will also have different abilities pertaining to sports. This bill acts as if there are no able-bodied, competitive, female athletes who can match the abilities of a man, as if women’s sports would crumble just by the presence of someone who doesn’t fit their description of a woman. This is untrue, and the presence of trans women in sports is unlikely to disrupt any fairness in women’s sports, especially with children and teenagers.
DeSantis is allowing discrimination against children
One more blatant issue with this bill being passed is that it will be affecting every trans woman negatively, including kids. A child should not be punished and excluded from playing with other children simply based on how they are gendered. Research is showing that there are no significant differences in young boys and girls before puberty, so why is it so important to separate trans children from their peers? Not only does the transgender child feel excluded from sports due to no fault of their own, but schools miss out on an opportunity to promote diversity between students.
What will the punishment be for kids who don’t follow the gender binary, and how are schools to distinguish what are acceptable means of expression from students, versus what will entail discrimination?
The answer will never be simple, so why are kids just being reduced to who is allowed to be a boy and who is allowed to be a girl. To learn more about the importance of inclusivity for children, Equality Florida’s Let Kids Play campaign is an important resource, not only for learning but for fighting this current discriminatory legislation.
Ultimately, this is an attack on all women and children disguised as insincere concerns for onlycisgender women. Our Governor is supposed to use his political power for the betterment of the state and its people, yet he has repeatedly set a precedent to delegitimize a vulnerable group of people, who deserve compassion and inclusivity. We must continue to empower the transgender community and support organizations that oppose damaging bills like the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.