Tennessee Republicans are escalating their war on transgender youth transphobic by voting on a bill that would defund any schools that support trans students.
The bill, S.B. 1861, would withhold money from any districts that don’t ban trans student from participating in school sports on the teams matching their gender identities.
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The bill was sponsored by Republican state Rep. Joey Hensley, an author of numerous past anti-LGBTQ bills. The state Senate passed S.B. 1861 on Monday, and it now heads to the House for a vote.
Hensley and supporters have said the bill would add “teeth” to a bill passed last year that requires students in the fourth grade and up to show their birth certificates in order to play sports. A trans teen and a civil rights group filed a lawsuit against the 2021 law last November. The lawsuit is ongoing.
Hensley admitted that he has neither spoken to any trans students nor knows of any state schools that have allowed trans athletes to compete.
“We have seen it happening in other states,” Hensley said in a recent floor speech, according to Vice News. “I don’t know of a personal example in Tennessee, but we don’t want it to happen in Tennessee and our female athletes to have unfair competition.”
Hensley has also sponsored a bill banning trans women from college sports. The state senate passed that bill Monday as well and is now set for a house vote.
These two bills will likely join four other anti-LGBTQ bills that the state passed last year, including a ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth and a bill that allows people to sue schools that allow trans students to use any facilities matching their gender identities.
Hensley has previously introduced a “Don’t Say Gay” style law that would ban any mention of non-heterosexual identities from kindergarten to eighth grade.
Cathryn Oakley, a senior counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, told Vox that Republicans are pushing these anti-LGBTQ laws in schools (and accusing LGBTQ people and allies of child molestation) as a “last-ditch” effort to fight the societal shift towards queer equality.
“We’re at this all-time high with people who are saying, ‘I don’t like anti-LGBT discrimination, I’m pro-nondiscrimination, this is my deal.’ And [conservatives] are losing their foothold,” Oakley said. “Where do they go from here? They pick on trans kids in the first place, because there are lots of well-meaning people who don’t totally understand what it means to be trans.”
While supporters of anti-trans sports bills claim to want to protect female athletes, numerous trans athletes have pointed out that Republican legislators who support these bills have done nothing else to secure increased funding or fight the institutional sexism that actually discourages cisgender female athletes from competing in sports.