Politics

Utah Republicans demand government panel to evaluate trans kids’ bodies

: A supporter holds a sign that says "Support Trans Youth"
: A supporter holds a sign that says "Support Trans Youth" in Washington Square Park on the 8th Annual Trans Day of Action on June 22, 2012 in New York City.Photo: Shutterstock

Republican lawmakers in Utah are pushing a bill that would establish a panel to analyze the bodies of individual trans youth and decide if and how they can participate in sports.

The “School Activity Eligibility Commission” would be made up of doctors, trainers, mental health professionals, and the like, all of whom would be appointed by the Republican-dominated legislature, as well as Gov. Spencer Cox (R).

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These panelists would be responsible for comparing the physical characteristics of individual trans kids to the averages for their gender and age.

The bill passed a committee along party lines on Monday, with a vote of 6-3. It is sponsored by state Rep. Kera Birkeland (R).

“To those that think that I’m just trampling on women’s sports, or that this is a solution looking for a problem: All three of my daughters have played [against] transgender athletes. So this is happening in our state,” Birkeland said, according to the Associated Press.

Brikeland, who also coaches junior varsity basketball, claimed that having their bodies evaluated by the panel would actually result in trans kids being considered more legitimate athletes once they’re approved.

Trans advocates disagree.

“When we start talking about these ‘Verify that you’re girl enough, or verify that you’re boy enough’ [policies], these kiddos, they shake in their proverbial boots,” said Utah pediatrician Jennifer Plumb, who is also the parent of a trans child.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, added, “We just don’t believe it is necessary for the Legislature to identify the specific physical characteristics that the commission consider to determine whether an individual teenager is allowed to play a particular sport,”

Those like Williams who are against government interference in trans lives are reportedly attempting to work with legislators regarding the proposal instead of merely protesting it.

There is also already a process in place through the Utah High School Activities Association to evaluate trans student athletes’ eligibility – and only three of 85,000 participating athletes have even gone through the process.

But for some reason, lawmakers believe the government should play a role in these decisions.

Birkeland, a mother of six, has been targeting trans youth in the state for a while now.

She sponsored another bill last year that sought to ban trans girls from participating in school sports. It passed the state House but stalled in a Senate committee.

Gov. Cox actually spoke out against the bill last February and said he wouldn’t sign it as it currently stood.

“These kids are- they’re just trying to stay alive,” he said. “There’s a reason none of them are playing sports. I just think there’s a better way. And I hope that there will be enough grace in our state to find a better solution.”

But he made sure to add that his feelings don’t mean he is fully in favor of trans rights, as he also told reporters that he believes that “people on both sides of the issue are actually right.”

“There are biological advantages with your birth gender. Those are biological facts, and nobody disputes that at all. It is also a fact that women’s sports has had a disadvantage for many, many years. We’ve gotten better but we still have a ways to go.”

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