Emotional testimony for Missouri legislation about transgender high school athletes

Missouri

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Lawmakers in Missouri’s capitol are discussing if voters should decide if transgender students should be required to play sports on the team that reflects the sex on their birth certificate.

The representative sponsoring the bill said he filed it to protect girls from losing the chance to go play sports at the next level, but those testifying against the bill Wednesday night asked for transgender people to not be discriminated against.

“I’m sorry, I’m just really emotional over this,” Columbia resident Kelsey Thurman said during a committee hearing Wednesday night. “This is a waste of everyone’s time, it’s transphobic, it’s hurtful and it serves no purpose in the state legislature.”

Emotions ran high during a House Emerging Issues Committee hearing Wednesday night.

“It was just three years ago that my oldest, Natalie, 22, in an incredibly brave moment, came and said she was trans,” Mike Dempsey told lawmakers while holding back tears. “And if you don’t get it, I didn’t get it either, but it’s very, very real and that’s our reality.”

Rep. Chuck Basye (R-Rocheport) is sponsoring House Joint Resolution 53, which would require students to play sports based on the sex listed on their birth certificate.

“Women or young girls, ladies in that matter, after they work hard in a competitive sport and then lose that opportunity to go on to the next level to get a college scholarship,” Basye said.

Rep. Mike Haffner (R-Pleasant Hill) agreed with Basye.

“When we have physiological boys competing with women, it becomes very unfair,” Haffner said.

Jenny Schultz spoke in favor of the constitutional amendment, saying it’s not fair to girls.

“Once transgender people enter women sports and are found to give a team an advantage, winning will take precedent,” Schultz said. “Women have come too far and worked too hard to see their dream demolished.”

Schultz and her husband attended the hearing, explaining how they were both Division II athletes.

“Participating in sports on an even playing field is paramount,” Schultz said. “At birth, males and females are different. From the start, we have different genes, chromosomes, hormones, and physical characteristics. Often it is this dream that can be a girl’s ticket out of poverty and paying for college. Taking away the right of one group–in this case, women and girls–to satisfy another isn’t equality.”

Most people who attended the hearing spoke in opposition of the legislation.

“I just don’t understand why for some reason, my gender, because of my friend’s gender, we are seen as undeserving of the opportunity to play sports,” Miles, a transgender boy, told lawmakers. “I’m just a kid. I just want to have fun, that’s what my friends want, that’s what my community wants. We just want to play sports; we just want to have friendships.”

Brandon Boulware spoke about his experience with his transgender daughter. He says at first he didn’t accept it, but now he sees how this resolution could hurt her chance of playing sports.

“This language, if it becomes law, will have real effects on real people,” Boulware said. “It will affect my daughter. It will mean she cannot play on the girls’ volleyball team, dance squad or tennis team. It will mean she will not have the opportunity that all of us had to be part of a team.”

The Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) already has policies in place for transgender students involved in sports. According to the handbook, transgender boys, (female to male) can participate on boys’ and co-ed teams, but transgender girls (male to female) cannot play on girls’ teams. The handbook goes on to say that if a transgender boy has taken hormone treatment, he may compete on a boys’ team but can no long eligible to play on a girls’ team. For transgender girls, being treated using hormone treatment can continue to play on a boys’ team but cannot play on a girls’ team.

“I know sports is a place where kids should feel comfortable,” Cory Hyman, a transgender boy, said. “It’s not only confusing to them but the team around them and others in the school, to go to school all day as one gender and then go play sports as another gender.”

Hyman’s mother, Christine, also testified.

“A long time ago, as a nation, we decided that discrimination was a bad thing, and that must include our trans kids,” Christine said. “We want that same opportunity to be proud of our kids. We want our kids to be excited on the team that they are on and that team needs to be the gender they identify with.”

If the resolution passes both chambers and gets the governor’s signature, it would be on the ballot for voters to decide in 2022. Before the legislation moves forward, it must pass out of the committee and members did not vote on it Wednesday night.

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