Four days after another professional female athlete vowed to boycott her league for allowing biological males to compete in the women’s division, the Wyoming Senate passed a bill banning males from female school sports.
Bethany Hamilton, a surfer who lost her arm to a tiger shark at age 13 in 2003, posted a video Saturday to social media rebuking the World Surf League for announcing a rule change allowing transgender men into its women’s division.
Hamilton, whose autobiography inspired the 2011 film “Soul Surfer,” said she won’t compete in the league if the rule is upheld.
“I strive to have love for all of mankind regardless of any differences,” said Hamilton. “But this concerns me as a professional athlete.”
Girls Sports Teams
It also concerns some in the Wyoming Legislature.
Many state lawmakers voted to halt the “major change” in public school sports in the state when Senate File 133 cleared the state Senate on Wednesday with a 28-3 vote of approval.
The bill proposes to forbid people born male from competing on girls’ sports teams in Wyoming public schools.
The three delegates who voted against it were Sens. Cale Case, R-Lander; Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie; and Mike Gierau, D-Jackson.
Do This Both Ways
Eighteen other states have implemented bans on transgender athletes in girls sports, according to LGBTmap.org.
Bill sponsor Sen. Wendy Schuler, R-Evanston, told her fellow Senators during a Monday debate on the bill that Texas has banned transgender boys and girls from competing across gender categories, but other states have banned only male presence in girls’ sports.
Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, wondered if the focus on one gender would make a court see the law as a violation of equal protection principles.
Ellis responded to Schuler’s concerns about girls’ safety in sports and concerns parents have about travel and hotel situations in which transgender girls are grouped with girls born female.
“Have we thought through the inverse of that?” asked Ellis. “If we’re going to do this then we need to do it both ways.”
Not Catching This Wave
Hamilton said she chose to speak out about the issue of transgender women competing in athletics because she thought many of the women on tour with the league would feel they’re not in a position to speak out against the rule.
“How is this rule playing out in other sports like swimming, running, MMA (mixed martial arts)?” asked Hamilton. “Have any of the current surfers in the world surf league been asked what their thoughts and opinions are on this new rule before it was passed or announced? … Is a hormone level an honest and accurate depiction that someone indeed is a male or female? Is it as simple as this?”
The league recently announced it would require transgender women athletes to maintain a testosterone level of less than 5 nano-mols for one liter of blood for at least 12 months to compete in the women’s division, CNN reported.
“I personally think that the best solution would be to create a different division so that all can have a fair opportunity to showcase their passion and talent,” said Hamilton. “And I think it’s really hard to imagine what the future of women’s surfing will be 15 to 20 years down the road if we move forward allowing this major change.”
Rothfuss opposed the Wyoming bill altogether, saying it marginalizes transgender kids in a way that the writers of the federal Title IX law – which promises girls equal opportunities to compete– would likely not condone.
He responded specifically to Schuler’s statement that transgender kids still could go out for band, co-ed sports and other activities.
“Imagine, Mr. Chairman, traveling back in time before Title IX and using that as the explanation for why we don’t need women’s sports,” said Rothfuss. “It’s alright. It’s OK because hey, we’ve got band and cheerleading. They can go out for that.”
Rothfuss said the bill denies transgender kids equal standing under the law. He also said it marginalizes them.
“We just want to classify them and categorize them and then tell them what they can’t do or how they should do it or what programs they’re allowed to engage in,” said Rothfuss. “It seems like it’s the theme that’s underlying a lot of what we’re talking about. And that theme is regrettable.”
Rothfuss said he supports and favors the system currently in place in Wyoming, whereby the Wyoming High School Activities Association reviews the appeals of transgender students whose schools have denied them the ability to compete on teams of their gender identity. Those appeals happen on a case-by-case basis.
Schuler later countered, saying her bill gives young girls the promise of excellence and fairness they deserve as they work toward their athletic goals.