Attention, all of you assigned female at birth! Let’s start with a few questions:
- Are you African-American or Black?
- Were you always big for your age?
- Taller than most girls your age?
- Did you develop late?
- Were you always more masculine or tomboyish then your peers?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then HB-61 and SB-132—the “Save Women’s Sports” legislation aimed at stopping transgender individuals from playing sports in the gender they identify—will affect you directly. That sounds wild but, it’s true.
How does that connect to the previous questions, you ask? Well, if you fit the previous descriptions, you could—under these proposed laws—be suspected of being transgender. You could be called not a “real woman,” and even a man in disguise. The previous sentence is very hurtful to hear (and to write!) but there are people who see trans people as just that.
A young Black girl who is under-18 and is exceptional at her sport could have her career stalled or challenged quite easily. Black girls are often suspected of having masculine or man like features. The most famous example is Serena Williams who had many conspiracy theories that she was secretly a man, rumors that didn’t even completely stop when she announced pregnancy. And these vile comments came because she was the opposite of her slim, blond, white fellow female tennis players like Anna Kournikova and Maria Sharapova.
Consider this: In the past few weeks, Columbus has talked about the murder of Ma’Khia Bryant. The driving narrative is that she was a woman brandishing a knife who was killed due to her being a threat. Yet Kyle Rittenhouse was called just a young kid trying to help out the police. At the end of the day, young Black girls are always perceived with olderness and or masculinity as justification for misogynoir and or transphobic behavior.
At the heart of this legislation is the question of who is considered to be a “real girl/woman.” And unfortunately, there are people in our LGBTQ+ community who are doing the asking. Often it is butch lesbians accusing “men” of using the bathroom due our trans siblings not fitting the gender norms. This was recently portrayed in Showtime’s Work in Progress where the main character—an older butch lesbian—gets accosted in a bathroom while other woman demands she leave.
General ignorance that only looks to target a certain group often has farther reaching goals. There are LGBTQ+ women—notably members of the lesbian community—who often who claim that they are the only “real women.” These TERFs will say that HB-61 and SB-132 is exclusively a transgender issue…that trans women aren’t women.
I respond by offering a historical reminder that Columbus instituted one of the earliest ordinances in the United States in 1848 forbidding people from appearing in public “in a dress not belonging to his or her sex.” Women not wearing a dress/skirt resulted in arrest, jailtime and a fine. You would think that we got rid of this law a hundred years ago, but no. It was overturned in 1974. Which wasn’t that long ago. At all.
So this may start right now with who can or can’t play a sport, but I assure you that it won’t stop there.
And that affects all of us.