JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri parents and their transgender children asked state legislators Wednesday not to make school any more socially isolating than it already is.
They made their case at a hearing for legislation that would limit the athletic opportunities for transgender students by forcing them to compete with “the same biological sex included on the student’s birth certificate.”
“To let our kids go to school all day and be a boy, but then at 2:15 they have to go play with the girls, is wrong,” said Chris Hyman, who brought her transgender son, Corey, to the hearing.
“We are just as human as everyone else,” Corey said. “My rights shouldn’t be talked about by politicians who don’t understand this.”
If passed by lawmakers, House Joint Resolution 53 would go to voters as a proposed constitutional amendment. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, said his main motivation was to protect children like his granddaughter from being “beat out” in athletic opportunities.
“We shouldn’t force these young women to be spectators in their own sports,” Basye said.
In his introduction, Basye cited the long-fought battle women in sports have endured about the passage of Title IX laws. Allowing transgender girls to compete with their counterparts “reverses nearly 50 years of advancement for women’s law,” he said.
Many people who opposed the bill argued that procedures are currently in place to protect the integrity of the competition.
Missouri State High School Activities Association policy permits trans students to apply to play on teams that do not match the gender assigned at birth in certain circumstances.
The rules aim to ensure “competitive fairness.” They stipulate that trans athletes must be on hormone replacement therapy for at least a year before being eligible to participate in single-gender sports.
Kelsey Therman of Columbia testified as an ally of transgender athletes, saying she and her teammates “are not asking for any protection.”
“I have never been offended, in the hundreds of races I have competed in, by a transgender person,” Therman said. ”Nothing was taken away from me.”
Legislators in 20 other states have introduced similar bills and, according to a report from The Associated Press, almost none of the sponsors have been able to cite an instance in their state or region where the participation of transgender children led to unfair sporting conditions.
Transgender students make up about 2% of the total high school population in the U.S., and about one-third of them attempt suicide each year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said young trans Missourians are already struggling to find a place in their communities, and she did not think it would be helpful to create laws that make it potentially harder for them to compete in team sports.
Quade questioned Basye about why he chose to make this a constitutional amendment that requires voter approval.
“If you take something like this as a vote, you are asking folks to vote on the dignity and existence of others,” Quade said.
Miles, who testified Wednesday and asked this his last name not be used, participates in volleyball, basketball, fencing and skateboarding. He noted how participating in sports helps him develop a work ethic and social skills among his peers. Miles hopes for a day where there’s no pressure from lawmakers affecting his life.
Before testifying, Miles said he was determined to come to the hearing.
“Morally I have to be here,” he said.
Miles’ mother told legislators that “kids should learn to appreciate differences. If we allow transgender kids to be excluded at a young age in sports, do you really think society will just suddenly accept them later on? No.”