On Tuesday, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning transgender girls and women from competing in women’s and girls’ scholastic sports. Starting on July 1, it would prohibit athletes from competing in such competitions at the middle school level and older if they were not assigned female at birth.
Florida is the latest and most populous state to enact legislation discriminating against transgender kids and adults, part of a broader effort by right-wing culture warriors waging a campaign of fear and demonization of transgender people.
“In Florida, girls are going to play girls’ sports, and boys are going to play boys’ sports,” DeSantis said, evincing an inaccurate, simplistic understanding of the issue that doubles as cruelty towards the Floridian athletes he’s seeking to prevent from playing sports.
Civil rights groups are promising to fight for trans kids’ rights in court.
“Gov. DeSantis and Florida lawmakers are legislating based on a false, discriminatory premise that puts the safety and well-being of transgender children on the line,” Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David said in a statement announcing the group’s intent to sue to prevent the policy from going into effect. “Transgender kids are kids; transgender girls are girls. Like all children, they deserve the opportunity to play sports with their friends and be a part of a team.”
The Florida High School Athletic Association and the NCAA already have policies governing the participation of transgender athletes, and the bill’s proponents did not cite a single instance of a transgender athlete in Florida causing any harm. Selina Soule, a Connecticut athlete who lost a track and field competition to transgender girls and subsequently sued her state, spoke at the bill signing, which took place at a religious school in Jacksonville.
The lack of a problem to solve in Florida is a sign that the bill is more about ginning up a national controversy and culture war that Republicans see as politically advantageous (as they apparently do in more than 30 other states where similar legislation has been introduced) than it is about addressing any actual harm felt by Floridians.
“These bills were a carefully orchestrated culture war that was unleashed in over 30 states across the country,” said Gina Duncan, a transgender woman and the director of transgender equality with the advocacy group Equality Florida. “These bills were all structured to achieve one thing: to demonize and discriminate against transgender Americans.”