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Tennessee becomes third state to pass bill limiting transgender athletes

Jack Baer
·3-min read

Tennessee became the third state to pass a bill requiring transgender athletes to compete in school sports according to their assigned sex at birth, with Gov. Bill Lee signing the bill on Friday, according to The Tennessean.

The state joins Mississippi and Arkansas in limiting trans athlete participation, with similar bills currently on the docket in more than 20 state houses across the country. The bill moved quickly through the Tennessee legislature, with lawmakers advancing the legislation in early February.

Lee, who previously claimed transgender student athlete participation would destroy women's sports, tweeted he signed the bill to preserve women's athletics:

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The bills currently being passed are widely seen as a Republican response to President Joe Biden's executive order banning discrimination based on gender identity in schools and other areas.

Like others, the Tennessee bill has been universally criticized by LGBTQ advocates, and seems destined for a response in court. The ACLU of Tennessee has already promised a legal challenge.

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No matter how that court battle plays out, the bill appears unlikely to actually affect anyone living in Tennessee at the moment.

Tennessee has no trans girls playing girls' sports

It bears repeating every time a state passes a bill banning transgender girls from competing in girls' sports: There are extraordinarily few instances of trans girls playing girls' sports, and the people writing these bills know it.

One survey from the Associated Press of more than two dozen sponsors of such bills and organizations supporting them found that the groups could only cite two examples from the state of Connecticut and nothing else when asked for instances of the problem they are supposedly addressing.

As the Tennessean notes, there is no evidence of transgender student athlete participation in Tennessee.

Facing that lack of concrete examples, the bill sponsors frequently claim they are being proactive (Tennessee is no exception), because combating the caricature of a trans girl receiving a supposed advantage while competing against cis girls has always been more compelling for supporters of the bill than the reality of the moment.

There was, of course, one other controversy in Texas involving a trans athlete, but the writers of bills requiring athletes to compete in school sports according to their assigned sex at birth probably don't want their supporters to know about it.

Mack Beggs, a transgender boy in Euless, won two state titles while competing in girls wrestling. He stated repeatedly he wanted to compete in boys wrestling, but the University Interscholastic League forced him to compete with girls. So he did, racking up a 92-0 record between 2017 and 2018 while facing an uproar from opponents and slurs at his meets.

By making such policy the law of the land, Tennessee and other states could very well be opening themselves to similar situations playing out in the future.

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