Opinion: Misguided Legislation Causes Harm

Jenna Torline, Ad Manager

The egregious Indiana House Bill 1041 passed January 24th, endangering the freedoms and health of trans athletes across Indiana.

This bill forces transgender girls who wish to participate in school sports to compete on the boys team instead of the team of their preferred gender identity. The House passed HB 1041 on the erroneous basis that trans students who are AMAB (Assigned Male at Birth), have a biological advantage over the cisgender (biologically their preferred gender) girls competing on the team. However true this may or may not be, going against the preferred identity of young trans athletes will be detrimental to the mental and physical health of every girl affected. 

According to surveys over the past couple of years, the number of trans kids within any one school is between 1% and 10%, rarely reaching the top percentile. The number of female presenting athletes within that category is even smaller than that. Being a young trans girl is hard enough- dealing with supplemental estrogen, dysphoria, and in most cases bullying. Most don’t persevere through with the desire to participate in school sports. Frankly, it’s such a minuscule thing for the House to worry about, and rarely ever an issue, and it’s a wonder that they’ve taken notice of this aspect of girls sports teams. 

Why does the policy only target trans female athletes? It seems they’re only worried about trans girls, or in their eyes, boys claiming to be girls, doing so to get a natural edge on their scores. If they’re so worried about such a thing, why ban it only one way? It comes across more like a twisted way to attack the transgender community rather than a genuine care for the athletes and the sports.

The current Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) policy does not permit “transgender or transexual, cross-dressing or similar types of student-athletes to participate on a member School’s team which is other than the team of the gender that matches the student’s birth gender, unless there is a changed gender”. The IHSAA has a listed process that trans female students must go through to even be recognised as their gender being changed. The student first must declare that they have “changed their gender from male to female,” and that they intend to participate as a female. By doing this, the MTF (Male to Female) student recognises that they “may never later participate on a team of the male gender” even upon transitioning back. Secondly, the student must provide reliable medical evidence that they undergone a sex change before puberty. If that is not the case, they must provide reliable medical record that “the MTF student‐athlete has undergone sex change after puberty, which should include evidence that surgical and anatomical changes have been completed, including genitalia changes and gonadectomy [the surgical removal of the testes or ovaries], that all hormonal therapies have been administered in a verifiable manner, that sufficient length of time has occurred such as to minimize gender‐related advantages and all legal recognition of the sex change has been conferred with all proper governmental agencies.” 

This makes it nearly impossible for any MTF student who wishes to participate in school sports to do so, as although it is not illegal, Endocrine Society recommends that surgical gender change be done no sooner than 18. This could be changed due to a second bill, SB34, which is currently in the committee. The bill would prohibit any attempt to medically affirm a trans minor’s chosen gender if it goes against their biological sex.

HB 1041 has yet to be signed off by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, a Republican. He has made no comments on the matter. During the 2016 Indiana gubernatorial election, Holcomb did not strongly voice his opinions on LGBT+ rights. In a 2016 interview, he stated that he “respected the law of the land” on gay marriage and had no issue with the policy of the time (having no civil rights protections for the LGBT+, but allowing local governments to provide them). In 2019, Governor Holcomb signed a historic bill giving Hoosiers specific protections against hate crimes, however, it did not include any mention of gender or gender identity. It cannot be safely assumed at this time which side he will choose on the matter. We can only hope he will protect the rights and health of every young MTF athlete across the state.

All in all, HB 1041 is a harmful bill towards young transgender athletes. It needlessly targets a small group of youth with no real drive behind it other than complaints (which fall few and far between) and conservative political motivation. If signed, it will be detrimental to the health of thousands.

Editor’s Note: Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb vetoed HB 1041 on Monday, March 21, writing that the bill “leaves too many unanswered questions.”