Wyoming ACLU and Equality Organization Oppose Trans Sports Ban
Two organizations in Wyoming, the ACLU of Wyoming and Wyoming Equality, have spoken out against a recent bill filed in the Wyoming state Senate.
The bill, SF 51, is legislation that would require that people compete in sports in high school or college to use their gender assigned at birth as opposed to one they might currently identify as.
Bills with the same or similar name, the Fairness in women's sports act, have passed in several states like Arkansas, Florida, Alabama, Texas, Montana, and Tennessee, while several other states like Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Minnesota have either introduced or are in the process of passing some form of the same bill.
Based on a report by the Williams Institute, in 2016 there were 1,300 adults in Wyoming who identified as transgender.
According to a press release by the ACLU of Wyoming and Wyoming Equality, the legislation is an attack on trans women and girls and violates the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.
Wendy Schuler, Wyoming state Senator, and sponsor of the bill said she proposed it to give women a fair playing field, which is why the bill doesn't include a provision stopping trans men from competing.
"I look at it like how would I feel if my own daughters or my own granddaughter couldn't compete because there were some transgender gals that had made the transition and were taking spots away from them," Schuler said. "Because I think that will eventually happen if we don't nip it in the bud. So even though it's not a huge problem right now, it could be and I think it may be if we don't do something...I feel like if we can protect just one girl, to be able to have the competition she deserves, and the playing time, and maybe even the chance at a scholarship."
Ron Laird, the commissioner for the Wyoming High School Activities Association, who Schuler spoke with, said they've heard from a few schools about trans students participating in sports, but have more heard from less competitive activities like band and drama.
Schuler said she has not spoken to any trans students about this issue but hopes to at some point in the future.
"I've talked to some educators, and I've also talked to a couple of athletic directors. I have not talked to a trans student," Schuler said. "I will admit when I retired I had not dealt with a transgendered student yet. So I probably should get that perspective, and I probably will if I can get a hold of some of those folks who have gone through the transition and get a feel for maybe what they think. I'm not a mean person, most people know me. As a teacher, I've always just tried to do the best job I could for the kids that I deal with. I don't want to see this as a negative bill, I just mainly want to protect women and girls."
Schuler said she's open to changes to the bill, such as having a testosterone requirement, but as it stands right now she is fine with where the bill is at.
"Someone asked me if I'd be open to seeing a tweak or to amend the bill, and I'm always open to listen to suggestions," Schuler said. "I know there's research out there, it does matter if they've gone through puberty and if they've taken the suppression of hormones versus if they haven't gone through puberty yet. I think there's some other doors maybe we could take a look at. But for now, I'm to leave it as it is and see what the legislators...Someone said well gosh, you're really discriminating against the transgenders, and I'm like going I don't see it that way, maybe the courts will."
Wyoming state representative Chuck Gray said in an email:
"This important bill protects women's sports by stopping the radical Left's agenda. The bill preserves fair competition and an even-playing field."
Because it is a budget session, Schuler said she's not sure how likely the bill is to pass, but that she has seen interest among many Republicans in the Wyoming legislature to pass this type of bill.
Antonio Serrano, ACLU of Wyoming advocacy director, said:
"Title IX protects all students – including students who are transgender – from discrimination based on sex," said Serrano. "Senate File 51 is clearly fueled by a fear and misunderstanding of transgender people in our state. In Wyoming and around the country, transgender people of all ages have been participating in sports consistent with their gender identity for years. Inclusive teams that support all athletes and encourage participation should be the standard for all school sports. Wyoming legislators should not consider this bill this year."
Sara Burlingame, Wyoming Equality executive director, said:
"Wyoming students learn a lot of important life lessons in sports leadership, confidence, self-respect, and what it means to be part of a team," said Burlingame. "Transgender kids, like other students, deserve the same chances to learn teamwork, sportsmanship, leadership, and self-discipline, and to build a sense of belonging with their peers. When legislators in Cheyenne tell transgender girls that they can’t play girls’ sports, they miss out on this important childhood experience and all the lessons it teaches. We can do better than this. Local schools have found solutions that work for kids, parents, and staff. Let’s continue that thoughtful process rather than traumatizing vulnerable children. The Wyoming legislature is headed into a brief, 20-day budget session for the express purpose of balancing the state budget. This harmful bill has no place here."