A bill in the Texas Legislature seeks to ban transgender women and girls from participating on girls’ sports teams in public schools.
Vox reporter Katelyn Burns has been covering this and other bills across the country that she says “are a solution in search of a problem.” She argues the perceived threat from trans women athletes is overblown. For one, there are few of them, especially in college sports.
“If you look at the NCAA level, The New York Times reported that out of 200,000 women athletes every year, only about 50 of them are trans. So we’re not talking about huge numbers here,” Burns told Texas Standard.
Burns is a trans woman, and was the first openly transgender reporter on Capitol Hill.
Burns says the idea caught fire in the conservative political sphere after a few high-profile cases of trans women finding success in sports. A conservative think tank found that the issue was popular among those it polled, and it developed the language that lawmakers have adapted into legislation in statehouses across the country.
“Essentially, the bills are all the same. And all of these states, even if you look at the specific language from state to state, it’s pretty much exactly the same,” Burns said.
Bans have already created a rift with the NCAA in some states. The national association that coordinates collegiate athletics has its own policies about transgender athletes. South Dakota backed off its ban after the NCAA threatened to sue.
Beyond the small number of trans women athletes, Burns says the Texas bill and others are founded on “a common misconception about the athletic ability of trans women and girls.” Supporters of these bills claim trans women and girls have an unfair advantage over those whose sex at birth is designated as female.
She says Texas’ bill is more likely to pass than others. But ultimately, the matter will likely end up being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.