Early this morning, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox pledged to veto House Bill 11 — anti-transgender legislation that would ban transgender youth from participating in school sports, and which was approved late night and sent to the governor’s desk. With the governor’s pledge to veto the bill, Utah is poised to become the first state this year to reject an anti-trans sports bill approved by the legislature. Gov. Cox’s pledge to veto the bill — which was hastily pushed through the Senate on the last night of Utah’s legislative session — was met with resounding praise and appreciation for standing up on behalf of transgender student athletes who the governor addressed by saying, “I just want them to know that it’s gonna be okay.”
In February 2021, Gov. Cox said he would not sign a bill then making its way through the Utah Legislature to ban transgender girls from participating in girls K-12 sports. Cox reflected on the hardships facing transgender youth saying, “These kids are... they’re just trying to stay alive.”
At the same time, legislators in states across the country have continued an unprecedented assault on transgender youth. A record number of anti-transgender bills were filed in 2021, largely focused on denying transgender youth the ability to receive gender-affirming care and participate in school athletics programs. Even more anti-transgender legislation is on track to be filed in 2022. There are more than 280 anti-LGBTQ+ bills under consideration in state legislatures across the country. Of those, at least 115 directly target transgender people and approximately half of those (60 bills) would ban trans youth from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.
Caught in the crosshairs of anti-LGBTQ+ elected officials’ divisive political strategy are kids who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence. Transgender youth, like all youth, gain benefits from participating in school athletics: leadership opportunities, better physical and mental health outcomes, self-discipline, self-confidence, teamwork, and, of course, fun – and they shouldn’t be prevented from participating in school athletics because of who they are.
Even when anti-transgender legislation does not become law, politicians are culpable for the harm they cause to LGBTQ+ people’s wellbeing simply by being subjected to continual legislative attacks on their dignity and humanity. As we saw just last week, there are real consequences to the discrimination perpetrated upon LGBTQ+ people, and particularly transgender youth.
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