For now, Iowa Safe Schools is focusing on providing support and resources for young transgender Iowans reeling from the effects of the law.
The case in Kansas
Toward the tail end of the 2022 legislative session in Kansas this spring, Republican senators in support of Senate Bill 160 could not muster enough votes to overcome Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto. The measure would have banned transgender girls and women from competing on girls’ and women’s sports teams.
“It’s not that there are more trans people, but as the world’s become more accepting more trans people are willing to live their lives out loud.”
“Both Republican and Democratic governors have joined me in vetoing similar divisive bills for the same reasons: it’s harmful to students and their families and it’s bad for business.”
Sen. Mark Steffen, a Hutchinson Republican, summed up his support of the measure in a letter to the Senate Education Committee:
“From the differences in height and weight, to the differences in muscle mass, cardiac output, and oxygen carrying capacity (to name just a few), males have a competitive advantage over females that precludes fair competition in sports,” wrote Steffen, who is also a physician.
But, the notion of competitive advantage fueled by testosterone is false, according to a range of scientific and medical experts.
Quoted in Scientific American, Katrina Karkazis, a Yale expert on testosterone and bioethics, said: “Studies of testosterone levels in athletes do not show any clear, consistent relationship between testosterone and athletic performance. Sometimes testosterone is associated with better performance, but other studies show weak links or no links. And yet others show testosterone is associated with worse performance.”
Rep. Stephanie Byers, a Wichita Democrat, said the number of young Kansas athletes seeking to transition from male to female in her state is miniscule: 1 in 37,000.
Byers, the first transgender legislator to serve in Kansas, said the rise of laws and proposals banning transgender youth sports participation is a feature of anti-LGBTQ sentiment that is running out of issues to target.
“As a nation we’ve become more accepting,” Byers said. “It’s as if this negative energy has to have somewhere to go and so they’ve decided that the trans community, especially trans youth, are who they want to push and pick on.”
For now, rules about how high school athletes who are transgender compete in sports remain under the purview of the Kansas State High School Activities Association. The KSHSAA’s “Transgender Policy,” created in 2015, applies to transgender girls and boys. As in Nebraska, Kansas will rely on NCAA rules to govern the matter at the collegiate level.
Measures in Missouri
Last spring, as the ban on transgender girls and women competing on female sports teams met its demise in Kansas, three similar measures remained alive and well in neighboring Missouri.
Proponents, mostly Republicans, pointed to familiar reasons for their support: Disputed assertions about how biology affects transgender men and women.
Democratic lawmakers argued the Missouri State High School Activities Association already has a policy that outlines requirements for transgender youths’ participation in sports. As in Kansas, the policy includes provisions for transgender girls and boys.
By the end of the legislative session, however, the Missouri Senate opted not to take up the banning of transgender girls and women from female sports teams, and the matter rests for now.
Advocates for transgender youth in Missouri celebrated. Rabbi Daniel Bogard, who has testified in opposition to banning efforts about a dozen times, tweeted:
Bogard, a rabbi at Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis, began advocating for transgender youth when he served as a rabbi in Cincinnati in 2017. Two years later, when his own child came out as a transgender boy at age seven, his crusade took on a personal dimension.