A Texas bill that restricts transgender student-athletes from joining school sports teams that align with their gender has passed the House Select Committee on Constitutional Rights and Remedies. House Bill 25 was voted 8-4 along party lines last Wednesday, after more than eight hours of emotional testimony opposing the bill from transgender youth, their families, business leaders, medical professionals, and more. The vote occurred during the third special legislative session of the year called by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and follows on the heels of a similar anti-trans sports ban passed by the Texas Senate in September. The current special session ends October 19th, and one of its primary objectives is to review a handful of bills that all attack access to school sports for trans youth.
The state has introduced the largest number of bills targeting transgender youth in the country this year with more than 40 anti-trans bills being proposed and more than 70 anti-LGBTQ bills combined. At the forefront, Governor Abbott continues to push for the measures to be signed into law.
As legislatures continue to target trans youth, just this month, a 21-year-old Black trans woman named Kier Soloman, who was misgendered in the press, was found fatally shot in a vehicle at a North Arlington apartment complex. As of Tuesday, five trans people have been murdered in Texas this year.
In 2020, 56% of trans homicides occurred in states that tried to implement anti-trans legislation similar to that being advanced in Texas. It also impacts the mental health of an already economically and politically vulnerable population.
Maya, a 10-year-old trans girl from Houston and an aspiring gymnast, testified at Wednesday’s House hearing and said the state’s anti-trans sports bill impacted her dreams and her mental health. Stanton said she was encouraged by a gymnastics coach to join a team, but then discovered that local policy bans her from competing with a team that affirms not only her gender but her ambitions and aspirations.
“I have come to Austin lots of times this year and missed school because I had to fight these bills,” said Maya during the hearing. “I have missed the second and third day of school, picture day, and will probably miss more. I love doing gymnastics…but because of that rule, I couldn’t do it.”
Maya was just one of several young children who bravely testified at the capitol building in Austin on Wednesday. Sunny, an 8-year-old trans girl, commented how hard it is to walk at school without being judged for being herself. In addition, Sunny was banned from playing soccer and gymnastics with girls because of this bill.
“You may have seen me at hearings before. I’m kinda famous now, but not for winning the spelling bee or the Houston rodeo, but just for being myself,” Sunny told legislators at the hearing. ”Why are you attacking me? I’m really great. I have lots of friends, I love to read and I love playing sports like soccer and gymnastics. I shouldn’t be here right now, I should be in school. Let me play with girls because I am a girl. Vote no on this bill”.
There was also testimony from parents of trans children, proud supporters of their loved ones full of courage in wanting to have their own agency without discrimination.
Suzanne Summers, the parent of a trans child, said that the bills are having a traumatic impact on her family and that she is considering leaving Texas for her trans daughter’s safety.
“I want my daughter to grow up in a safe environment, I want my daughter to live”, Summers said. She pleaded with legislators to have compassion towards trans kids who are “only and still kids, full of hopes and unaware of their surroundings, in need of love and respect.”
Like many parents, Molly Carnes is a self-described Christian mom who said she believes that God created people to love each other no matter what and requests that Texas legislators reconsider supporting the bills which can lead to suicidal ideations and self-harm in trans youth.
“We parents have been testifying for months, we try to activate your compassion with stories and data, but you refuse to provide yourself with the free education given to you, yet feel qualified to police trans bodies,” said Carnes. “Transgender people are created in God’s image and willed by God and nothing you can say will remove that truth.”
The situation in Texas is urgent, as only one week remains in the month-long special session that Gov. Abbott called to decide on the fate of trans youth in school sports. Gov. Abbott, who must represent a symbolic figure that wants to introduce development and peace, has recently decided that he will propose a plan to approve a ban on gender-affirming health care for trans minors.
Texas legislatures are desperately trying to pass anti-trans legislation that attacks an already marginalized community facing rampant systemic discrimination for simply living in their truth.
And for some trans families, such as Summers, they believe there is no chance to survive in their home states, but leave, forever.