Transgender ban on school sports proposed by Arizona Republicans

    LGBTQ+ Pride flags | Susan J. Demas

    A Republican legislator from Phoenix wants to ban transgender students from athletic teams that align with their gender identity. 

    Arizona state Rep. Nancy Barto’s House Bill 2706 also mandates a medical review of a student’s anatomy, hormone levels and genetics if the student’s biological sex is disputed while seeking to participate in sports programs at public and private schools, community colleges and state universities. 

    The bill, which is co-sponsored by 22 other House Republicans, would divide all interscholastic and intramural sports teams into male, female and co-ed teams “based on biological sex.” Under that definition, the measure prohibits transgender girls from participating in girl’s sports.

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    In a press release, Barto said the bill is about protecting women and girls. 

    “Female student athletes should not be forced to compete in a sport against biological males, who possess inherent physiological advantages,” Barto said. “When this is allowed, it discourages female participation in athletics and, worse, it can result in women and girls being denied crucial educational and financial opportunities.”

    Jeannine Brandel, president of the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s executive board, said girls in school sports are not facing disadvantages because of their transgender peers.

    “I have not seen an unfair advantage,” she said. “In my opinion, transgender people aren’t [transitioning] to compete and gain an advantage as an athlete.”

    Brandel said AIA’s Sports Medicine Committee reviews applications on a case-by-case basis of students wanting to play in athletic teams of their identified gender. In the four years she’s been on the board, Brandel said that no application has been denied. 

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    AIA policy places preference on a student’s gender identity.

    “All students should have the opportunity to participate in AIA activities in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity, irrespective of the sex listed on a student’s eligibility for participation in interscholastic athletics or in a gender that does not match the sex at birth,” the policy states. 

    According to the press release on Barto’s bill, similar proposals have been introduced in Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Washington.

    Madelaine Adelman is the co-founder the Phoenix chapter of GLSEN, a group that advocates for safer learning environments for LGBTQ youth.

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    “This bill is part of an overall strategy across the country to scapegoat a vulnerable population and exclude them from foundational components of school including extracurricular activities in order to gain public attention and votes. “How cruel it is to try to remove a healthy activity like sports, where being part of a team and gaining a sense of belonging is fostered. How cruel it is to remove that from a group of students who are so frequently told that they do not belong in schools,” she said. 

    But Barto’s bill doesn’t just cover women’s sports. 

    It could also stop all transgender students from participating in their preferred teams. The bill requires that, if a student’s sex is disputed, the student has to provide a doctor’s note with the student’s genetic makeup, levels of testosterone, and “internal and external reproductive anatomy.” HB2706 doesn’t say who can make or resolve those disputes.

    Those requirements amount to “policing and invading young people’s bodies so that they can play sports,” said Adelman. 

    A version of this story first ran in the Advance‘s sister outlet, the Arizona Mirror.

    Laura Gómez
    Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network.