At around 10:30pm on December 15, I went to sleep.
Minutes before, the Ohio Senate had passed HB 151, moving forward a ban on trans youth athletes.
The bill was then headed to the Ohio House, right after the Senate had tacked on more than 2,000 extra pages effectively gutting the State Board of Education and adding in some anti-vax language.
I climbed into bed with a heavy heart.
I knew that when I woke up, I would have to write about our state legislators’ obsession with banning trans youth from sports: hours and hours of hearings and hundreds of submitted witness statements even though there are literally only the smallest handful of trans athlete currently approved by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) to compete in the entire state of Ohio.
There was no question in my mind that the House would pass the bill.
After all, HB 151 had its start in the House: passed after 11pm on June 1st – Happy Pride Month! – when Rep. Jena Powell (R-Laura) tacked a ban on trans youth athletes to a bill that was originally meant to create more support systems for Ohio’s under-resourced teachers.
Only, I woke up to the news that the House didn’t pass HB 151.
Thanks to my far more stalwart and caffeinated journalist colleague – Andy Chow. Follow him. – I was briefed the next morning that the House rejected the Senate’s changes and the months-long effort to ban Ohio’s trans youth from athletics was dead for 2022.
That morning, I communicated with multiple in-the-know journalists and there seemed to be widespread consensus from their sources: the bill did not pass because Republicans disagreed about those extra 2,000 pages of educational reform.
Even Rep. Powell voted against her own bill, and her “No” vote most definitely wasn’t because she had a change of heart about trans youth.
Side-note: I reached out to Rep. Powell for more insight about why she voted down her own bill, and this piece will be updated if she responds.
But then I started seeing messaging about an “LGBTQ+ Ohio victory.”
Media outlets across the country carried the headlines that Ohio’s trans sports ban had been defeated. LGBTQ+ organizations praised a success that they said LGBTQ+ Ohioans created. Pro-LGBTQ+ equality legislators called the outcome a win.
Here’s what the back-and-forth in my head sounded like:
INTERNAL GILBERT GOTTFRIED VOICE: But it wasn’t a win! Calling this an LGBTQ+ win feels disingenuous!
INTERNAL ANGELA LANSBURY VOICE: But ultimately the anti-LGBTQ+ bill was defeated.
INTERNAL GILBERT GOTTFRIED VOICE: But not because of the trans sports part! Because of the other non-LGBTQ+ stuff!
INTERNAL ANGELA LANSBURY VOICE: You woke up this morning to Ohio’s trans youth not being banned from athletics.
INTERNAL GILBERT GOTTFRIED VOICE: But that bill will unquestionably be re-introduced in 2023!
INTERNAL ANGELA LANSBURY VOICE: And you’ll write about that when it happens. But for now, trans youth can play sports like all other Ohio youth.
Covering the Ohio Statehouse these past few years has been a slog. There really is little good news with regards to LGBTQ+ equality:
- The bills to create nondiscrimination protections in housing, employment and public accommodations don’t come near passing.
- Conversion therapy remains legal statewide as bills attempting to ban the discredited and harmful practice don’t come near passing.
- And a vastly disproportionate number of hearings are spent on a ton of anti-LGBTQ+ bills that feel like they come very near passing.
But for 2022, those anti-LGBTQ+ bills didn’t pass.
Which is not to say that those bills don’t do damage in their very existence. Because they do indeed wreak havoc. (See: enabling of violence, families having to create Ohio exit plans to safeguard their trans children, and our very LGBTQ+ existence being questioned.)
But, again, for 2022, those anti-LGBTQ+ bills didn’t pass.
I would like to do a better job in 2023 of pausing on that outcome as much as I do on the path that got us there.
I humbly ask for your help with that.
Continue to tell us about developments in your corner of Ohio. Push back with positivity where you can, especially on social media. And, above all else, celebrate the LGBTQ+ Ohio wins when they happen.
Because I promise: LGBTQ+ Ohio wins really do happen. 🔥