Missouri lawmaker pitches constitutional rules for transgender student athletes

Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 3:00 PM CST
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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Transgender student athletes would be required to compete on teams that match the sex on their birth certificate under a proposed amendment to the Missouri Constitution debated in a House committee hearing Wednesday.

Republican sponsor Rep. Chuck Basye, of Rocheport, on Wednesday said transgender girls have an unfair physical advantage and said allowing them to play on girls teams could mean other girls miss out on athletic scholarships.

“If we allow transgender folks, it’s discriminating against young girls,” Basye said.

Basye said he became concerned about which teams transgender children compete on after hearing about transgender athletes in Connecticut.

Between 2017 and 2019, transgender sprinters Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, of Connecticut, combined to win 15 championship races. Their success prompted a lawsuit by four cisgender girls, meaning girls whose gender identity matches the gender they were identified as having at birth.

One of those girls, Chelsea Mitchell, defeated Terry Miller -- the faster of the two trans sprinters -- in their final two races in February 2020.

Republican lawmakers trying to limit which teams transgender students can play on often cite the Connecticut athletes. Other examples are rare.

Chase Strangio, a transgender-rights attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said he’s not aware of any transgender athletes who competed in high school and won athletic scholarships.

Basye said he hasn’t had many conversations with transgender children and families about the issue. He said Wednesday was the first day transgender-rights advocates came to his office to talk to him about it, but he didn’t have time to meet with them yet.

Transgender children, parents and transgender-rights advocates sometimes cried as they asked lawmakers not to advance the proposal.

Corey Hyman, a 15-year-old transgender boy from St. Charles, said “being socially accepted by your peers is just as important as getting your physical transition needs met”.

“If you saw me, someone with a mustache, on the girls team during a game, you’d probably be thrown off,” he told lawmakers.

Several parents pointed to Missouri’s current public high school sports rules, which already prohibit transgender girls from competing on girls teams unless they’ve undergone at least a year of hormone therapy and continue taking medication to maintain their hormone levels.

The Missouri State High School Activities Association requires transgender athletes to apply and submit documentation of medical care in order to compete as the gender they identify with.

If approved by the Republican-led Legislature, the proposed constitutional amendment would go before voters in 2022.

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