Bill would bar transgender athletes from participating in female sports 

  • Protesters stand outside a House Education Committee, which heard testimony on a bill to bar transgender women from serving on female sports teams, on Jan. 14, 2020 Ethan DeWitt—Monitor staff

Published: 1/14/2020 2:46:59 PM

As the Manzellis put it, sports are a family tradition. Amy Manzelli’s dad sits in the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame; three generations of the Pembroke family have held Patriots season tickets. 

So when Amy’s transgender daughter took a shine to athletics, Amy wasn’t surprised. Her daughter had been born biologically male, but after coming out as female, she wanted to join her fellow girls out on the field.

Down in Connecticut, Christy Mitchell was living a different reality. Mitchell’s daughter is a star track and field runner – one of the best in the state. But she’s constantly being bested by a female athlete who is transgender, Mitchell said.

She was one of several Connecticut residents to testify Tuesday about the controversy in their state over transgender athletes, including a Title IX complaint arguing female athletes’ rights are being violated. 

Mitchell and Manzelli were on opposite sides of a brewing cultural debate with deeply personal effects.

Lawmakers in the New Hampshire House are considering a Republican bill that would ban transgender middle school, high school, and college students from participating in female sports, and impose sex verification procedures for those looking to join.

House Bill 1251 would require that New Hampshire’s primary and secondary schools offer participation on female sports teams only to students “of the female sex.”

The legislation would mandate that athletes in question prove their birth gender by producing a doctor’s note before they could participate on the female teams.

That doctor’s note would have to certify to “the student’s internal and external reproductive anatomy,” the student’s testosterone levels or the student’s chromosomes before the athlete could be accepted as female and allowed onto the team, the bill stipulates.

The bill comes on the heels of a dramatic expansion of gender identity protections in New Hampshire schools in recent years, and it’s could face significant legal challenges if passed. An official with the Department of Justice testified that it could run afoul of the state constitution and state statutes.

Already, the bill has attracted passionate debate. 

To Mitchell, who is from Canton, Conn., the question is one of fairness. She said “female athletes” lack biological advantages compared to transgender athletes. Female athletes who identify with their birth gender – known as cisgendered – have smaller muscles, lungs and hearts, and wider hips, which inhibits speed, advocates who testified said. 

They added that by allowing transgender girls to participate in sports, other girls could lose out on opportunities. Mitchell said her daughter already has.

“The female sprinters in New England have been, and will continue to be, locked out of the opportunity to win at the highest levels,” she said.

Other proponents pointed to Title IX which in 1972 first provided the mandate for schools to have female sports teams, arguing that the principles of that act were being violated by trans athletes.

But opponents of the bill denounced it as an invasion of medical privacy for any trans student hoping to participate on a female sports team. Proving one’s gender under the bill would require a genital check by a doctor, or even blood tests to demonstrate testosterone levels, they said.

“Part of this bill is asking young girls to remove their clothes, put an uncomfortable hospital gown on, get up on a medical examination table and be examined,” said Jenny Manzelli, Amy’s sister. “...Does this invasion and scrutiny make any sense to you?”

And opponents said it violated a recent anti-discrimination law for gender identity in New Hampshire schools and would be found unconstitutional.

For Amy Manzelli, telling her daughter to compete on male sports teams would be a nonstarter.

“If this bill is passed, she will never have the right to play sports at school, not at middle school, not at high school, and not at college,” she said.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association already has a policy that allows trans athletes to play for the gender sports team they identify with, opponents noted. And the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association requires schools to allow trans athletes to compete in the gender they identify with at the start of the school year.

Speaking after the hearing, Rep. Mark Pearson, a Hampstead Republican, said that he would consider amendments to the bill to strengthen it against any legal liabilities.

The packed, two-hour hearing featured some tense moments. At one point, one attendee, Victoria Gulla, raised her voice at the committee.

“I’m very angry that I lived nine years in Massachusetts, 11 years in New York City, and I came back to New Hampshire to raise my children in a place where you wouldn’t have all this crazy stuff happening in the schools,” she said.

The hearing was recessed Tuesday afternoon by House Education Chairman Mel Myler, a Hopkinton Democrat, who said it would be resumed at a later date.

The bill is one of two attempting to confine female sports to athletes born female. A mirror bill, Senate Bill 480, has been introduc ed in the Senate.




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