Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs law restricting transgender student participation in school sports

Texas Governor. Greg Abbott, Texas Governor, signed Monday a law restricting transgender students' participation in school sports that are consistent with their gender identity.
Texas was the eighth and largest state to adopt legislation this year that addresses transgender athletes' access in sports. South Dakota, however, also passed restrictions but it did so by executive order. Similar legislation was passed in Idaho in 2020. However, it has been blocked by federal courts.

Texas' third special session passed HB 25. This law allows student-athletes only to participate in interscholastic athletics that correspond with the sex listed by their "official birth certificates," which are documents issued "at or close to the time of the student’s birth."

If a girl is assigned to a boy's sport at birth, a student-assigned male may participate in it.

Texas and Alabama are not only affecting transgender girl's participation in girls' sports but also transgender boy's ability to play in boys' sports.

Anne Lieberman (director of policy and programs, Athlete Alliance) said that her heart breaks for Texas communities who have been fighting tirelessly and fiercely against anti-transgender legislation. "HB 25 is another example of legislators passing legislation that bullies or targets children who want to play with their friends in sports."

All students who participate in high school sports must follow the University Interscholastic League's current policy. This includes amended birth certificates and students who have had their sex changed. The UIL policy will be overridden by the new law that goes into effect Jan. 18, 2022.

Although Texas may amend birth certificates, HB 25 prohibits the UIL's acceptance of amended ones. Valoree Swanson, the bill author, stated that the legislation needed to be changed because of an increase "non-clerical sexual amendments" to Texas birth certificates between 2018 and 2019. The state in which the birth certificate was issued originally will determine how easy it is to determine if the document has been altered.

Asaf Orr is a senior staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the director of the transgender youth project. "Some states protect transgender people's privacy and don’t indicate that the name or gender marker has been corrected," she said. "It is possible to have two transgender athletes in other states. Depending on their birth, one could be allowed to participate in sports that are consistent with their gender identity.

A spokesperson for Texas Department of State Health Services stated that an amendment to a birth certificate containing a gender or sex marker "would not be obvious" in Texas.

Freedom for All Americans reports that Texas had 19 bills specifically dealing with transgender athletes, and 54 anti-LGBTQ laws filed during its regular session. This was more than any other state. Tennessee had 14 anti-LGBTQ laws, which was the next highest.

According to a report by the Williams Institute at UCLA, Texas has the highest number of transgender youths in the country.

Since Mack Beggs' 2017 win in the girls' state wrestling championships, transgender athletes have been a hot topic in Texas. Texas legislators introduced legislation in Texas that would have restricted transgender athletes' participation in the state. However, it failed to pass. Additional bills were considered by the legislature in 2019, but they also failed to pass.

Andrea Segovia (the field and policy coordinator of Transgender Education Network of Texas) said, "This is adults bullying children." "At its core, it's this body that legislates trans people out of existence. This is about public accommodations. These spaces are home to trans people. These bills are a message that says, "We don't want to see you in these spaces."

States that have passed legislation that affects transgender youth who participate in sports, unlike North Carolina's 2016 contentious law, have not faced widespread backlash or boycotts. Advocates have pressured the NCAA to act. A letter was signed by more than 500 student-athletes, coordinated by Athlete Ally, asking the NCAA not to host championship sites in any state that has passed restrictive laws against transgender youth involved in sports.

The NCAA has not resorted to the same actions in North Carolina five year ago when seven championships were moved out of the state. Multiple events will be held in Texas for the NCAA basketball tournaments. Texas Christian University and University of Texas at San Antonio will host the preliminary rounds of the men’s tournament in 2022. The men's final four in 2023 and 2025 are scheduled to be held in Houston and San Antonio. Dallas will host the women's Final Four in 2023.

The NCAA stated that it does not plan to relocate championships from states with restrictive transgender athletes' competitions.

The statement stated that "Given the Association’s foundational values, inclusion and fair competition," the NCAA will conduct its championships exactly as they were awarded. However, all hosts will be required to reaffirm their commitments to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all college athletes in accordance with their host agreements." The NCAA should be contacted immediately if a host is unable to adhere to the nondiscrimination policy.

The NCAA stated that it did not have any further statements regarding the issue on Oct. 22.