The Ohio Legislature advanced a bill this month to ban transgender athletes from competing in competition. Dubbed the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” HB 527 would require schools, state institutions of higher education, and private colleges to designate separate single-sex teams and sports for each sex.
Originally introduced in February by Representatives Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) and Reggie Stoltzfus (R – Minerva), the bill received its first hearing in the Ohio House Primary and Secondary Education Committee (starts at the 30:20 mark) on December 3.
According to the bill, schools would be require to have separate teams for “participants of female sex within female sports divisions” and “participants of the male sex within male sports divisions.” If a participant’s sex is disputed, the bill specifies that a determination will be made via a signed physician’s statement determining the participant’s sex upon only the following:
The participant’s internal and external reproductive anatomy;
The participant’s normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone;
An analysis of the participant’s genetic makeup.
At the December 3 hearing, the word “transgender” was rarely mentioned by Representatives Powell and Stoltzfus, choosing instead to pivot to using the phrases “biological males” and “biological females.”
“My view of this matter is shaped by my role as a husband, a father of two daughters in public schools, and informed by what I know to be true of man and woman,” said Rep Reggie Stoltzfus during the hearing.
Though she repeatedly invoked the specter of “little girls’ dreams of being a gold medal athlete [being]crushed by biological males stealing their opportunities, Representative Powell—even when directly questioned by her colleagues—was not able to identify a single instance of this occurring in Ohio. Instead, she continued to insist that this little-girl-dream-crushing was a national epidemic.
“Across our country, female athletes are currently losing championships, scholarship opportunities, medals, education, and training opportunities,” said Powell.
Rep. Erica Crawley (D- Columbus) asked several questions of the HB 527 sponsors about intersex athletes, prompting Stoltzfus to reply that the American with Disabilities Act “specifically protects intersex” individuals. Crawley pressed on.
“We’re talking about transgender youth,” said Crawley.
This prompted one of the only instances of the Republican sponsors’ use of the word “transgender” as Stolzfus shot back that it was a totally separate topic to be discussing “children who choose to be transgender.”
Representative Joe Miller (D-Amherst) highlighted that the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) already has a policy for trans athletes.
“If the governing bodies already have policies that are fair and inclusive, why is there a need for the legislature to get involved with this topic?” asked Miller.
Stolzfus replied that the OHSAA “is doing what they can to not get sued.”
A line of dialogue from the representatives then veered into discussing Sarah Fuller, the Vanderbilt kicker who recently become the first woman to score in a Power 5 football game, and how HB 527 would affect an athlete like Fuller. Stolzfus responded:
Males are stronger than females. I was an arm wrestler growing up. You ladies are smarter than me, but you can’t beat me in arm wrestling. It’s not going to happen. If a lady can play as a kicker and compete against males, she is beating the odds. I would applaud that…God created male and female. Males are stronger and faster. You can take as much hormone therapy as you can take, but you’re still a male.
At the close of the hearing, Stolzfus vowed, “In the next [general assembly], I intend to run this bill and run it hard.”
HB 527 bears striking similarity to Idaho’s “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” signed into law by Republican governor Brad Little on March 30. Experts have thoroughly debunked the “fairness” claims perpetuated by sponsors of bills like these. In an interview, Dr. Vinny Chulani, Director of the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Adolescent Medicine Program, an esteemed practitioner in the field of LGBTQ+ care and an ardent advocate of the rights of trans and gender-nonconforming youth explains:
Bills like Idaho’s fail to recognize the diversity within the transgender female population. They also fail to understand the biology of puberty and where we are presently in terms of treatment, specifically with puberty blockers. Remember that when you take a look at pre-pubertal bodies, assigned male and assigned female bodies look a lot alike; it’s not until puberty that they go their different ways under the influence of sex steroids… Nowadays, if you have a patient in early puberty who was assigned male at birth and has gender distress or gender questions, we can use puberty blockers to suppress male puberty. They would not develop the traits that would theoretically afford them the advantage.
The ACLU published an easy to follow guide establishing four facts that counter the narrative of HB 527:
- FACT: Including trans athletes will benefit everyone.
- FACT: Trans athletes do not have an unfair advantage in sports.
- FACT: Trans girls are girls.
- FACT: Trans people belong on the same teams as other students.
- Do your research. Initiate dialogue about trans athletes AFTER you have read up on the important talking points you need to grasp before being challenged. The ACLU guide is a great place to start.
- Contact the members of the members of the Primary and Secondary Education Committee to let them know where you stand in relation to HB 527.
- Equality Ohio is collecting stories from trans athletes. Share your story here.