Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

House Bill 68 Harms Transgender Athletes

Across the country, state legislatures are limiting the rights of transgender folks, targeting their access to gender-affirming care and participation in athletics. As of June 2023, the Equality Federation identifies 72 bills across the U.S. that have been introduced to limit and ban transgender students from athletics. The increase in anti-trans legislation in sport and sentiment rests on misunderstandings of transgender women as “threats” to an equal playing field in sport. 

In Ohio, the Republican supermajority in the state legislature voted Jan. 24 to override Governor Mike DeWine’s veto of Ohio House Bill 68. One section of the bill, known as the Saving Adolescents from Experimentation Act, effectively bans gender-affirming care for minors. Another section, called the Save Women’s Sports Act, bars transgender women from women’s sports within the state. This act explains that “No state institution or private college … shall knowingly allow individuals of the male sex to participate on athletic teams or in athletic competitions designated for only participants of the female sex.” Spearheaded by Republican Representative Gary Click, the bill has garnered significant support from conservatives who argue that it is necessary to protect the integrity of women’s sports and maintain a level playing field.

Proponents of the Save Women’s Sports Act argue that allowing transgender athletes to compete on teams that do not align with their biological sex could potentially jeopardize the safety and opportunities of female athletes. They point to instances in which transgender women, who were assigned male at birth, have dominated women’s sports competitions, raising concerns about fairness and the erosion of female athletic opportunities.

However, opponents of the Act, including LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and civil rights organizations, argue that the legislation is discriminatory and harmful to transgender individuals. They contend that transgender athletes should have the right to compete according to their gender identity, rather than being forced to adhere to outdated notions of biological sex. The ACLU of Ohio has filed a lawsuit that has placed a stay on the bill. 

“We are prepared to go to court and defend the rights and dignity of transgender youth with every tool available,” Chase Strangio, deputy director for Transgender Justice at the ACLU, said in a statement regarding the ACLU Ohio’s preparation to challenge the bill with a lawsuit. 

Moreover, opponents argue that such legislation perpetuates harmful stereotypes and contributes to the marginalization of transgender individuals in society.

The Save Women’s Sports Act seeks to further cement protections for female athletes by prohibiting transgender women from competing on women’s sports teams at the collegiate and high school levels. Sponsored by Republican Representative Jena Powell, the bill has been hailed by its supporters as a necessary safeguard against the participation of transgender women in women’s sports.

Supporters of the Save Women’s Sports Act argue that allowing “biological males” to compete on women’s sports teams poses a direct threat to the integrity and competitiveness of female athletics. They contend that physiological differences between males and females confer advantages that cannot be mitigated by hormone therapy or other measures, thereby necessitating clear and unequivocal protections for female athletes. Although this may be the dominant ideology, scholarship does not indicate inherent biological advantages between transgender women who have undergone hormone therapy and cisgender women. 

Conversely, opponents of the Save Women’s Sports Act argue that it is discriminatory and unjust, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and excluding transgender women from participating fully in society. They argue that transgender women should have the same opportunities as cisgender women to participate in sports according to their gender identity, rather than being subjected to arbitrary restrictions based on their assigned sex at birth.

The collision of this legislation has thrust Ohio into the national spotlight, highlighting the broader debate over transgender rights and gender equality in sports. As lawmakers grapple with complex legal, ethical, and social considerations, the stakes could not be higher for transgender athletes, female athletes, and the broader LGBTQ+ community.

In the midst of the contentious debate, voices on all sides are clamoring to be heard, advocating passionately for their respective positions. LGBTQ+ activists are mobilizing to oppose what they see as discriminatory legislation that threatens the rights and dignity of transgender individuals, while conservative groups are rallying behind efforts to protect the integrity and fairness of women’s sports.

As Ohio lawmakers continue to wrestle with the implications of House Bill 68, one thing is certain: the outcome of this legislative battle will reverberate far beyond the borders of Ohio, shaping the future of transgender rights and gender equality in sports across the nation. In a polarized political climate, where deeply held beliefs and values collide, the fate of this bill will serve as a bellwether for the direction of LGBTQ+ rights and social justice in America.

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