Texas Student-Athlete Bill Could Hurt Transgender Kids

On Tuesday, the Texas state senate passed a bill that could hurt transgender children by keeping them off of the playing field. Specifically, the bill removes special protections for student athletes who take steroids under their doctors' supervision. As a result, Texas' student-athlete bill could effectively ban transgender kids from competing in high school sports.

Senate Bill 2095, introduced by state Sen. Bob Hall, would allow the University Interscholastic League — which governs high school sports and competitions — to accept or reject athletes using doctor-prescribed steroids on a case-by-case basis. Officials from the league would be able to receive prescription information from the student and decide whether other players' safety or the fairness of the game was at risk.

Texas law already prohibits steroid use in sports, but a safe harbor provision in the state education code previously allowed transgender students using hormone therapy to continue participating in competitive sports. The student-athlete bill would amend that provision, essentially removing protections for trans student-athletes.

"This bill is not addressing who plays on what sports," Sen. Hall told The Texas Tribune recently. "This bill is addressing individuals who ... are taking steroids, then makes sure, as a result of that, the events remain safe and fair."

The bill was introduced after a 17-year-old transgender wrestler, Mack Beggs, won the girls' state championship. Beggs and his parents wanted him to wrestle in the boys' league, but Texas regulations require that students compete according to their assigned gender at birth, meaning Beggs had to wrestle girls during the championship. The bill approved in the Senate on Tuesday could mean student-athletes like Beggs could simply be excluded from sports competitions altogether.

"All young people should have the opportunity to play interscholastic sports and have their personal dignity respected," advocacy group Equality Texas told CNN on Wednesday. "Transgender people are no different."

Several Democrats agreed with the advocacy group. "I don’t believe we can sit back and ignore the fact that there are students who are transitioning and are taking legally prescribed medication from their doctors and they may be competing in UIL sports," state Sen. José Menéndez, said during debate of the bill, according to The Texas Tribune. A second Democratic state senator suggested the University Interscholastic League adopt trans-inclusive policies, but her amendment was voted down.

According to The Houston Chronicle, the bill will need to pass in the state Senate a second time before it makes it to the Texas House of Representatives. While The Chronicle reports that the bill's chances of passing in the state House are low, any Texans worried about transgender students' right to participate in sports should call up those representing them — before it's too late.