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Proposed Ban On Trans Women Athletes A ‘Solution In Search Of A Problem’

Only about 50 out of 200,000 women participating in collegiate sports are transgender women.
2013 Texas Relays
Only about 50 out of 200,000 women participating in collegiate sports are transgender women.

From Texas Standard:

A bill in the Texas Legislature seeks to ban transgender women and girls from participating on girls’ public school sports teams in Texas.

Vox reporter Katelyn Burns has been covering this and other related bills across the country that she says “are a solution in search of a problem.” She argues the perceived threat from trans women athletes is overblown. For one, there are few of them, especially in collegiate sports.

“If you look at the NCAA level, The New York Times reported that out of 200,000 women athletes every year, only about 50 of them are trans. So we’re not talking about huge numbers here,” Burns told Texas Standard.

Burns is a trans woman, and was the first openly transgender reporter on Capitol Hill.

Burns says the idea for bans caught fire in the conservative political sphere after a few high-profile cases of trans women finding success in sports. A conservative think tank found that the issue was popular among those it polled, and it developed the language that lawmakers have adapted into legislation in statehouses across the country.

“Essentially, the bills are all the same. And all of these states, even if you look at the specific language from state to state, it’s pretty much exactly the same,” Burns said.

Bans have already created a rift with the NCAA in some states. The national association that coordinates collegiate athletics has its own policies about transgender athletes. South Dakota backed off its ban after the NCAA threatened to sue.

Beyond the small number of trans women athletes, Burns says the Texas bill and others are founded on “a common misconception about the athletic ability of trans women and girls.” Supporters of these bills claim trans women and girls have an unfair advantage over those whose sex at birth is designated as female.

She says Texas’ bill is more likely to pass than others. But ultimately, the matter will likely end up being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Caroline Covington is Texas Standard's digital producer/reporter. She joined the team full time after finishing her master's in journalism at the UT J-School. She specializes in mental health reporting, and has a growing interest in data visualization. Before Texas Standard, Caroline was a freelancer for public radio, digital news outlets and podcasts, and produced a podcast pilot for Audible. Prior to journalism, she wrote and edited for marketing teams in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. She has a bachelor's in biology from UC Santa Barbara and a master's in French Studies from NYU.
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