Student, professional athletes push for NCAA to pull events over transgender athlete bans

Student and professional athletes joined LGBTQ advocates Friday to ask the National Collegiate Athletic Association to take action against states passing bills to exclude transgender women from women’s sports teams.

“This is a moment of national crisis where the rights and very existence of transgender young people are under attack,” said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a virtual press event. “This year’s state legislative sessions mark the highest number of anti-transgender bills in history — more than 50 — which target the ability of transgender athletes to participate in sports.”

In North Carolina last month, Republican lawmakers filed a bill to bar transgender women from competing against other women at schools and universities. Just this week, they filed bills that target transgender health care, seek to force teachers and counselors to report children who exhibit “gender nonconformity” and legally protect scientifically debunked “conversion therapy” that seeks to cure LGBTQ people.

As North Carolina saw five years ago, during the battle over HB2, the economic and cultural impact of sports organizations withdrawing competitions from states with discriminatory laws can make a difference. In response to that bill, the NCAA moved seven championship events scheduled to be held in the state as other major organizations and corporations boycotted the state. The final economic impact was estimated at nearly $4 billion.

Last month nearly 550 current NCAA athletes from across the nation signed a letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert and the NCAA Board of Governors asking that they reaffirm the organization’s existing non-discrimination policies and pull championship events in states where transgender athletes are banned from competition. More than 700 NCAA athletes have now signed the letter.

Alana Boja, track and field athlete at Washington University.

“We noticed more and more states slated to host championships were putting anti-trans bills on the table but the NCAA was just staying silent,” said Alana Boja, a Washington University track and field athlete who helped spearhead the letter.

“We couldn’t just sit back and watch as the right to play sports was stripped from our fellow athletes,” Boja said.

The bills are a threat to all women athletes, Boja said.

“It’s impossible for women athletes to feel safe and supported in an environment where their personal identity and integrity is questioned,” Boja said. “The reality is many of these bills cannot possibly be enforced without inviting policing and bullying of all student athletes who do not meet stereotypes of gender and could empower any person to force any student athlete to undergo invasive physical exams or hormone tests in order to ‘prove their gender,’ whatever that means.”

Transgender women don’t threaten women’s and girl’s sports, Boja said.

“They’re my teammates, who want to play for the exact same reasons that I do,” Boja said. “To have fun, to improve ourselves, to make friends and be physically fit.”

Boja’s Washington University teammate, Aliya Schenck, said Republican legislators aren’t supporting or protecting women’s sports by discriminating against transgender women. If they want to do that, she said, they can concentrate on funding underfunded women’s sports programs all over the country.

The NCAA has had a policy allowing for the inclusion of transgender athletes since 2011. The organization should treat the current legislation like the threat to its policies and values that it is, Schenck said.

“Trans girls have been competing for a long time without incident,” Schenck said. “The NCAA needs to take action and withdraw all athletic competition from states considering anti-transgender sports bills.”
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Two new bills target transgender rights, health care

Two new bills filed this week target transgender North Carolinians, part of a wave of anti-trans legislation filed by Republicans across the country.

Senate Bill 514 would prohibit transgender people under the age of 21 from receiving medical care related to gender transition, even if judged medically necessary by their parents and doctors.

The bill closely mirrors a similar legislation filed across the country, including in Arkansas this week where a similar bill was passed into law this week. To enact the law, that state’s legislature overturned the veto of Republican governor Asa Hutchinson, who condemned it as “government overreach.”

But in several respects SB 514 goes beyond the law passed in Arkansas.

The bill would also require state employees, including teachers and counselors, to inform parents in writing if they have knowledge of a minor who exhibits “gender dysphoria, gender nonconformity, or otherwise demonstrates a desire to be treated in a manner incongruent with the minor’s sex.”

Gender non-conformity can include anything from young men who paint their nails and young women who prefer to dress in clothes traditionally considered masculine to non-binary and gender-fluid people who do not identify strongly as male or female. The bill would require those children’s teachers and counselors to report them to their parents if they “exhibit symptoms” of gender non-conformity, even if they do not consider themselves transgender.

The bill also seeks to legally protect so-called  “conversion therapy,”  a scientifically discredited practice  that attempts to “cure” lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The practice, which research has repeatedly found causes depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, has been banned in 20 states. In 2019 Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order forbidding taxpayer money to be used to pay for its use on minors in North Carolina. Polling shows overwhelming support for banning the practice in North Carolina, but multiple bills to do so have gone without a hearing or a vote.

Taken together, these provisions of the bill establish a legal mandate to identify and report children who may be transgender, prevent their parents and doctors from making medical decisions about their care and legally protect methods of “curing” them that have been established to be harmful.

“It’s heartbreaking – though not unexpected – to see these direct, repeated attacks on trans and gender-nonconforming youth in North Carolina and across the country,” said Kendra Johnson, Executive Director of Equality NC, in a statement Wednesday. “These attempts to control the bodies and medical decisions of parents and their transgender children are invasive, inappropriate, and outright dangerous.”

“Decisions about a child’s medical welfare should be made between that child, their doctor, and their parents or guardians – not lawmakers.,” Johnson said. “We cannot legislate the transgender community out of existence. It is the job of all lawmakers to understand the entirety of their constituency and mitigate challenges instead of creating barriers.”

At the heart of the bill are arguments about whether transgender identity exists and whether certain of their rights are protected by law. These are disputes that have already been largely resolved by the scientific community, federal policy and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Significantly, gender dysphoria is mischaracterized throughout the bill. The American Psychiatric Association makes clear it is not a mental illness, instead defining it as “a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify.”

More than 40 years of research into and treatment of transgender people experiencing dysphoria has led psychiatric and medical professionals to conclude the most effective course of treatment is gender transition — aligning one’s life socially and sometimes physically to better match their gender identity. Not all transgender people choose to medically transition, but for those for whom it is judged necessary, medical experts agree that it can be life-saving.

The bill would also legally prohibit any state government health plan or state provided insurance from paying for that care.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield of North Carolina, which administers the State Employee Health Plan, recognizes the necessity of transition care. It has, since 2011, recognized dysphoria as a serious medical issue and covered treatments related to transition, including hormone therapy and gender confirmation surgery. But as Policy Watch has reported, the trustees of the state health care plan cut off that coverage to state employees.

The board of trustees of the state health care plan voted to begin covering treatments for gender dysphoria at the end of 2016, near the end of Janet Cowell’s term as State Treasurer. The change was necessary to comply with the Affordable Care Act. When Republican Dale Folwell came into office in 2017, he opposed the move, calling care related to gender dysphoria elective and unnecessary. The plan’s trustees allowed the coverage to expire at the first opportunity and have never reinstated it. Transgender state employees and employees with transgender family members cut off from their coverage sued the state over the change.

Ignoring scientific consensus and federal law that recognizes transgender peoples’ identities and upholds their rights, the bill seeks to legally conflate gender identity and biological sex. It describes sex as “the biological state of being female or male, based on sex organs, chromosomes, and endogenous hormone profiles, and is genetically encoded into a person at the moment of conception, and it cannot be changed.”

Making no distinction between biological sex , gender and gender identity, the bill characterizes transgender people as confused and says that if they are not encouraged to transition, any gender dysphoria they experience will naturally dissipate.

That judgement is opposed by every major legitimate medical and psychiatric association that has examined the issue.

A second bill, Senate Bill 515, would allow any medical provider  to refuse to perform any form of care or service “on the basis of conscience, whether such conscience is informed by religious, moral, ethical, or philosophical beliefs or principles.” That would including providing referrals to others who may provide the care or service. LGBTQ advocates call it a “license to discriminate” against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people among, among others, for religious reasons.

“This is the latest in a series of coordinated attacks on healthcare access for trans and gender-nonconforming youth across the country, the true aim of which is to push trans and non-binary people out of public life,” said Chantal Stevens, Executive Director of the ACLU of North Carolina, in a statement Wednesday.

“Not only are these bills rooted in falsehoods, hate, and fear-mongering, but they also invade the private interactions between each of us and our medical providers,” Stevens said. “Just as North Carolina is recovering from the damage wrought by HB2 on our reputation and economy, let’s move forward together to build equitable communities rather than doubling down on being a state that legislates hate.”

These two bills follow the filing last month of House Bill 358, which would bar transgender women from competing against other women in sports at schools and universities in North Carolina.

Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, warned the current wave of ant-trans legislation could lead to the sort of division and harmful backlash that accompanied HB2, the law that excluded LGBTQ people from non-discrimination protections five years ago.

“Our state learned a lesson all too painfully with HB2,” Beach-Ferrara said in a statement Wednesday. “Extreme bills that target LGBTQ people harm individuals, communities, and the fabric of our state itself.”

“We’re working toward building communities across North Carolina where every LGBTQ person can thrive,” Beach-Ferrara said. “That means being treated with dignity and respect, it means living free from discrimination, and it means being able to access the health care you need and deserve in your hometown.”

Democratic lawmakers file raft of LGBTQ equality bills

Democratic lawmakers in the state House and Senate filed four bills Tuesday that would provide protections and equality for LGBTQ North Carolinians.

“It’s no secret that North Carolina has a difficult history when it comes to LBTQ+ rights,” said Rep. Vernetta Alston (D-Durham), at a virtual press conference Tuesday. “But we’re here to change that.”

The bills filed Tuesday are:

House Bill 450 / Senate Bill 396 – “The Equality for All Act” — Legislation that would extend LGBTQ non-discrimination protections statewide. Seven communities across the state have already passed such protections since a statewide ban on such local protections expired in December.

House Bill 451 – A full repeal of HB2, the controversial law that excludes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from statewide nondiscrimination protections and generated international headlines and boycotts of the state.

House  Bill 449 – A bill to prohibit so-called “gay/trans panic” defenses in “heat of passion” assaults and murders of LGBTQ people.

House Bill 452/ Senate Bill 392 – “The Mental Health Protection Act” – A bill to prohibit so-called “conversion therapy,” a scientifically discredited practice aimed at “curing” LGBTQ people. The practice has been linked to suicides among LGBTQ youth and is banned for minors in 20 states and Washington D.C.  In 2019 Gov. Roy Cooper banned the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for the practice.

Alston said HB450  “affirms what we already know — that no one should live in fear of discrimination and that everyone in North Carolina deserves basic human rights.”

Rep. Vernetta Alston (D-Durham)

“No one should worry that they can’t buy a home because of who they love or be denied a haircut or a hotel room because of their gender identity,” Alston said. “And I want to be able to go to a restaurant and know that my right to be there with my family is protected by the state I call home.”

Kendra Johnson, executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group Equality NC, called passage of the bills essential.

“For too long, LGBTQ North Carolinians have lived under the shadow of archaic and outdated laws that impact everyone in our community, but most directly those of us that live at the intersections of multiple lenses of oppression,” Johnson said. “Black, Brown, transgender, and gender-nonconforming North Carolinians continue to suffer the greatest threats to life and safety under the legacy of House Bill 2, the lack of nondiscrimination protections in this state, through the invocation of the so-called ‘panic defense’ and at the hands of those practicing conversion therapy. We must pass these four bills so North Carolina can not only catch up with the rest of America but also begin to build a state that actively embraces the true diversity of the human experience.”

Versions of several of the bills have been filed previously without ever getting a vote in the General Assembly, whose Republican majority has generally opposed them. But advocates and lawmakers said things have changed significantly since the fight over HB2 five years ago.

“Since then, we’ve seen thousands of residents open their eyes to the mistreatment that LGBTQ people endure and open their hearts and minds to solutions that will make life in North Carolina more equitable,” said Allison Scott, Director of Impact & Innovation at the Campaign for Southern Equality.” This package of bills confronts the attempted erasure of LGBTQ minors, ensures everyone can live in public as their authentic self, and catches our laws up to where we really are as a state. It’s time to turn the page on the relics of our past such as HB2 and HB142 and move toward a path that is  inclusive with an equitable future for our state.”

Cherry Iocovozzi, a food systems manager at East Fork Pottery in Asheville, said their employer makes them feel welcomed and protected as a non-binary person. But five years after HB2, that still isn’t the case everywhere in the state.

“Five years later, our economy is still missing out because LGBTQ people remain vulnerable to discrimination in NC,” Iocovozzi said. “We’re lagging behind the 20 other states that fully protect LGBTQ people, including our neighbors to the north in Virginia, who passed comprehensive protections last year. And while it’s great to see local communities passing nondiscrimination ordinances, 93% of our state’s residents live in municipalities without protections.”

“I want every LGBTQ person to feel included and welcome and free from discrimination, not just in the workplace but in every area of life,” Iocovozzi said. “Your basic freedoms should not depend on where you live.”

Several lawmakers also shared personal stories of how the issues addressed by these bills have impacted them or their families.

“I have family members in the LGBTQ community, including a grandchild that identifies as female and is transitioning,” said Rep. John Autry (D-Mecklenburg). “I would do anything to protect any of my children and my grandchildren, and that is why I am so supportive of these measures here today.”

Rep. Allison Dahle (D-Wake) shared that her aunt was a victim of conversion therapy.

“She’s in her late 70s and still to this day, there are ramifications from said ‘therapy,’ Dahle said. “So it’s very important to me that no child has to go through this, that no person has to go through this.”

 

 

New poll: Americans support LGBTQ non-discrimination protections across partisan, racial and gender lines

As North Carolina communities pass new LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination policies and a new N.C. House bill seeks to exclude transgender women from women’s sports teams, a new poll out this week finds more than three in four Americans (76%) favor laws to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans from discrimination in jobs, housing, and public accommodation.

The new data comes from the 2020 American Values Atlas, a project of the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute. The group surveyed more than 10,000 adults in the U.S. from January 2020 to December, finding a higher level of support for non-discrimination protections than it has ever before recorded. In 2019 the survey found 72 percent of those surveyed supported such protections, about the same level it found in 2016.

The increased support, a majority across partisan, racial and gender lines, comes as the U.S. Senate is poised to consider The Equality Act.

“The increase in support for LGBT nondiscrimination protections since 2015 has largely come among Americans of color and white mainline Protestants,” the group noted in a statement on the results. “White mainline Protestants and Black Americans have grown 10 percentage points more likely to favor nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Americans from 2015 to 2020 (from 73% to 82% and 65% to 75%, respectively). Multiracial Americans (from 72% to 81%), Black Protestants (from 64% to 73%), Americans ages 30 to 49 (from 73% to 81%), independents (from 73 to 78%), and Democrats (from 78% to 85%) have all become more likely to favor protections than they were in 2015.”

Majorities of all partisan groups supported the protections, according to the group, though support was higher among Democrats and Independents.

“Support for LGBT nondiscrimination protections among Democrats remained relatively steady in 2015 (78%), 2017 (79%), and 2018 (79%), before rising slightly in 2019 (81%) and 2020 (85%)<” the group said its statement. “Support among independents was also relatively steady: Around seven in ten favored protections in 2015 (73%), 2017 (72%), 2018 (70%), and 2019 (72%), and increased to 78% in 2020. Republican support declined slightly, from 61% in 2015 to 58% in 2017 and 56% in 2018, before climbing back to 61% in 2019 and 62% in 2020.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the survey found that women and younger people support the protections in the largest numbers.

“Seven in ten or more Republicans (70%), independents (84%), and Democrats (89%) under age 50 support nondiscrimination protections,” the group said. “Support is lower among Republicans (56%), independents (71%), and Democrats (81%) over age 50.”

Women are more likely than men to favor nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Americans, with  two-thirds of Republican women (68%) favoring the protections as compared to 57% of Republican men. About 82 percent of Independent women said they supported the protections while  75% of Independent men said they did.  The gender gap was smaller between Democratic women (87%) and Democratic men (83%).

The survey also found strong support for the protections across racial and ethnic lines.

Find the full survey results and information about methodology here.

Bill seeks to prevent transgender women from competing on women’s athletic teams

A new N.C. House bill seeks to ban transgender women from competing on women’s athletic teams at public schools in North Carolina.

LGBTQ advocates are calling the bill part of a wave of anti-transgender legislation pushed by conservative groups and lawmakers across the country.

House Bill 358 (the “Save Women’s Sports Act”), filed Monday, would compel all public schools and universities to have sports teams designated male, female or co-ed. Under the bill “sex shall be recognized based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”

The bill would also prohibit any “governmental entity, licensing or accrediting organization, or athletic association or organization” from opening an investigation or taking adverse action against a school for maintaining separate teams.

The bill claims that transgender women have inherent advantages in sports and says it aims to ensure “women are not forced to compete against men playing on women’s sports teams.” The bill lays out causes of action and remedies for women who believe they have been deprived of opportunities by anyone violating the act and institutions that believe they are subjected to “retaliation or adverse action” as a result of reporting violations.

The bill would also cover charter and private schools if they are part of a state-level association including the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.

“In North Carolina, girls deserve to again compete on a level playing field,” said Rep. Mark Brody (R-Union), one of the bill’s primary sponsors, in a statement Tuesday. “Instances of males competing in women’s sports exemplify the immediate need to act before fair competition and women’s athletic opportunities are destroyed. The Save Women’s Sports Act is the solution which ensures that all female athletes will be assured a level playing field to compete and win.”

Rebby Kern, education policy director for LGBTQ advocacy group Equality NC, denounced the bill in a statement Tuesday, referencing the HB2 fight of five years ago and negative publicity the international boycotts it sparked against the state.

“Five years after attacking transgender North Carolinians through the devastating impact of House Bill 2, NC House Republicans are once again targeting our transgender community,” Kern said. “It’s beyond disheartening to see that the North Carolina General Assembly has not learned the lessons of five years ago.”

“Young people all across this state, regardless of gender identity, deserve the opportunity to experience the benefits of being part of a sporting community — especially when trans youth already face disproportionate barriers to success in learning environments,” Kern said. “Equality NC believes that we can find a way to protect transgender youth and ensure that all youth, regardless of gender identity, have the opportunity to learn teamwork, sportsmanship, leadership, self-discipline, and all the other lessons that sports provide. We call on the NCGA to do their part in protecting all youth by passing clear nondiscrimination protections for youth in sport and beyond.”

James Michael Nichols, communications director at Equality NC, said the bill is part of a new wave of anti-transgender legislation happening across the country.

In a statement Tuesday, Equality NC called the bill “rooted in invasive and inappropriate questions about the sex assigned to young people at birth and outdated generalizations about male and female bodies.”

“Now that gay, lesbian, and bisexual people have achieved a baseline level of cultural acceptance in America, anti-LGBTQ politicians have moved on to a more vulnerable target: our transgender brothers, sisters, and siblings,” Nichols said. “Trans people have always been at the forefront of the fight for LGBTQ rights and acceptance and borne the brunt of violence, discrimination, and targeted attacks against our community. Now, politicians want to limit the ability of young, trans folks to experience camaraderie and teamwork at a crucial developmental stage of life. It’s up to all LGBTQ people to show up for trans youth right now when they need us most.”

In a Tuesday statement, the Campaign for Southern Equality pointed out the bill would preempt what the group said are existing, reasonable regulations from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association that allow transgender students to participate in sports in a way that is consistent with their gender identities.

From the NCHSAA statement on its policy:

“The NCHSAA allows participation in interscholastic athletics for all students, regardless of gender or gender identification. It is the intent that all students are able to compete on a level playing field in a safe, competitive and friendly environment, free of discrimination.  Rules and regulations are intended to provide every student-athlete with equal opportunities to participate in athletics.

The NCHSAA regularly reviews all its policies. Prior to enacting the Gender Identity Policy, the NCHSAA engaged in a lengthy process of reviewing policies from other states, speaking with experts in the field, and seeking input from various stakeholders. This policy aligns the NCHSAA with other state athletic associations across the country while promoting the NCHSAA’s mission of inclusive sports participation in North Carolina.”


Allison Scott, Director of Impact & Innovation at the Campaign for Southern Equality, said North Carolina is already beyond such legislation.

“This anti-transgender bill is an outlier in North Carolina, and it doesn’t reflect where we are as a state,” said, who is transgender. “We have come so far since the days of HB2, and we’re better off for it: LGBTQ people feel safer, business leaders are becoming more comfortable investing here, and our communities are more inclusive and respectful. It pains me to see some lawmakers, egged on by extreme anti-transgender activists running a coordinated national attack on trans youth, trying to drag us back into an era of discrimination.”

“The truth is that transgender youth deserve the same access as any other student to the many benefits of participating in school sports, including the physical, social, and emotional impacts,” Scott said. “To categorically deny transgender students the freedom to play alongside their peers is at odds with lawmakers’ duties to care for and protect our youth. To all of the transgender youth feeling attacked by this bill and others like it nationwide, I want to be sure you understand that you are loved, you are seen, and we are fighting with you.”