ATLANTA— Georgia’s Senate Education and Youth Committee on Wednesday gave the thumbs up for Georgia to join the movement of more than 10 other states that have enacted restrictive transgender sports laws.
“Transgender athletes have never been a threat to me, but maybe that’s because I’m good at what I do,” said Camden Hughes, a female rugby player, prior to the committee’s 6-4 vote.
Hughes was among others who spoke in opposition to SB 435, the “Save Girls Sports Act,” which prevents public and private schools in the state from allowing a person whose biological gender is male (or a transgender female) from participating on athletic teams designated for females, and vice versa.
Gender, in the bill, is defined as the sex identified on the child’s birth certificate.
Hughes, along with another cisgender female athlete spoke against the bill, saying they have never experienced any issues or threats related to transgender athletes.
“I play currently with two transgender athletes, none of my teammates feel uncomfortable playing with them,” Hughes said. “In fact, they enjoy being part of a diverse learning community and family.”
Proponents of the bill argue that males are biologically stronger than females. The bill’s lead sponsor Sen. Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, referenced a widely reported statistic that over 1,400 athletes have completed a mile under four minutes, but none of them are female.
“This bill is about fairness,” Harbin said. “It’s our responsibility as legislators and as adults with common sense to resolve this issue and ensure that Georgia’s young women aren’t robbed of time on the field, a chance for character building athletic accomplishments and invaluable scholarship opportunities.”
Georgia High School Association Executive Director Robin Hines agreed, but said the Association does not support discrimination of any sex, and that the association accepts the gender determination of the local school district.
“I do believe that there are biological differences in male and female and we strive all the time for competitive balance,” Hines said.
Democrat senator and committee member Sonya Halpern suggested letting school districts decide their team composition on a local level, agreeing with opponents who say the bill could further the risk of mental health issues which transgender youth already face.
“I’m not going to argue with you that males kind of physiologically are stronger than females, I think that’s true,” Halpern said. “I’m also not going to argue that we see trans students considering suicide at substantial rates than that we see in other students. Is there room at all to consider that the state should not be legislating what every school does with our athletics across this state and instead allow for a growth in our understanding about what we’re evolving toward?”
SB 435 would allow a student or parent/guardian to file a grievance to the school if they feel a violation of the law has occurred, and further would allow the student or parent/guardian to file a private action in court.
The bill, which still needs approval in both the Senate and House, could position the state to face discrimination lawsuits just as other states— including Mississippi and Tennessee— which enacted similar bills in 2021. Alabama also enacted transgender athlete legislation last year.
On the collegiate level, the NCAA — which regulates college athletics policies — allows trans males to compete on male teams with testosterone treatments, unless a medical exemption is given. Trans females must undergo one year of testosterone suppression treatment before competing on female teams.
The treatments are available to children; However, Alabama's new law argues against studies that show testosterone suppressant doesn’t significantly diminish natural testosterone. Mississippi’s transgender sports bill stated that “a recent study” found that even after 12 months of hormonal therapy, a man who identifies as a woman and is taking cross-sex hormones had an “absolute advantage over female athletes and will still likely have performance benefits over women.”
In a February 2020 edition of Pediatrics American Academy of Pediatrics’ journal Pediatrics, a study found that the desire for puberty hormone blockers was low among transgender adults but presented better mental health outcomes for transgender persons.
Of more than 20,600 surveyed transgender adults age 18 to 36, approximately nine of 10 transgender adults who wanted pubertal suppression but did not receive it experienced lifetime suicidal ideation.
Bills seeking to ban and criminalize gender-affirming health care to transgender youth has been proposed in all the aforementioned states.