A proposed piece of legislation in South Dakota could legalize discrimination against trans and gender non-conforming student athletes.
According to The Daily Beast, state lawmakers are attempting to push through SB 49, a bill that would allow high school students to participate in school athletics only as the gender listed on their birth certificates. If passed, the law would also revoke a previous policy from South Dakota’s High School Activities Association guidelines, which currently guarantees “participation for all [student athletes] regardless of their gender identity or expression.”
Though SB 49 would only apply at the state level, trans activists worry that its passage into law could have more widespread repercussions.
“It’s really concerning that it’s so specific,” Chris Mosier, a runner and the first trans athlete to compete on a national sports team in the United States, told The Daily Beast. “It could be the first domino in many discriminatory policies.”
The state’s current guidelines for young athletes are some of the most inclusive in the U.S.
As the Associated Press previously reported, South Dakota Sen. Jim Bolin, a Republican who’s sponsoring the bill, fashioned it after a similar policy in Texas, where a young trans man was forced to wrestle in a girls’ tournament because of the gender he was assigned at birth. Sen. Bolin also said he “just firmly [believes] that those who are males should play in sports designated for males and those who are females… should play in sports designated for females, according to your birth certificate.”
“It’s about fair competition,” he added, “and we’re not breaking any new ground.”
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Hudson Taylor, executive director of the LGBTQ sports nonprofit Athlete Ally, explained how participating in sports offers “offers unparalleled physical, social, and emotional growth” for all students, cis or trans. “Legislation like SB 49, which restricts access for trans athletes, is really denying the trans community those benefits of sport,” he added.
The bill was introduced last week and is scheduled for an official hearing before state lawmakers on January 24.
Trans and gender non-conforming students around the country are all too familiar with discriminatory policies at school. In February 2018, a 12-year-old genderfluid athlete in California was ousted from the boys’ basketball team after using the girls’ restroom. And last October, a young trans girl at a middle school in Virginia was blocked from using both the girls’ and boys’ locker rooms during a mass shooting drill.