Opinion: HB 1205 threatens the safety of all our kids


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Published: 05-22-2024 4:36 PM

Shana Brunye lives in Exeter.

New Hampshire’s State Senate voted last week to pass HB 1205, a bill that is purported to ban transgender girls from playing on girls’ school sports teams but that does much more. The vote was 13 to 10, on party lines, with the Senate president and others in the Republican caucus touting the legislation as necessary to protect young girls in locker rooms, bathrooms and on athletic fields. It’s important to acknowledge that this bill is part of a national socially conservative agenda and is not specific to any issues in our state.

While at least some of the proponents of HB 1205 seem to believe that the bill will correct a problem, the reality is that it creates a problem. This bill has the potential to seriously impact the safety, privacy and well-being of all girls in our state. In a nutshell: this bill requires girls in grades 5 to 12 to provide proof of their biological sex at birth before they can participate in school sports.

Under HB 1205, to participate in sports, the student must present their birth certificate issued at birth or upon adoption denoting their biological sex. The student or the student’s parent or guardian must pay for any cost associated with providing the required evidence. And if the student is not able to produce an original birth certificate due to unavailability or cost, if there are questions about whether it is the original birth certificate, or if the original birth certificate does not indicate the child’s biological sex at birth, “the student must provide other evidence indicating the student’s sex at the time of birth.”

The bill is silent as to what that “other evidence” could be and there are no specifics in the bill on who in a school would be enforcing the law. “Are we asking male coaches to check the genitals of a 10-year-old girl?” asked Sen. Donovan Fenton, D-Keene, during the Senate debate. “Or will administrators be going to students directly and asking them in private to pull down their pants? The vagueness of this bill makes it completely unclear as to how the school will comply with this requirement.”

Proponents of HB 1205 profess supposed noble intentions to pass a law that will “protect girls.” However, as noted by Sen. Debra Altschiller, D-Stratham, during debate on the bill, “If there was such a deep and abiding concern for girls’ sports opportunities, we would be mandating fidelity to Title IX and providing equitable opportunities for investment and participation in school sports for all genders…If anyone should be targeted for stealing thousands of athletic playing opportunities from girls and women, it should be boys and men’s athletic programs, not a very tiny number of transgender students.”

Just to be clear, this law will apply to all girls, both transgender and cisgender. As the mother of a teenage girl who is involved in athletics, I am seriously concerned about what this law, if signed by the governor, could mean for my daughter, her classmates and her teammates. Would this enable someone in a school to examine her because she does not appear to be “feminine enough”?

Brittney Griner, the professional basketball player, has talked about her biological sex being questioned throughout her life for just that reason. She endured and is a star, nonetheless. But even girls who don’t have Brittney’s height and incredible talent would be put in harm’s way if HB 1205 becomes law.

While my daughter is not transgender, the idea that she or any girl might have to prove their gender by pulling down their pants is violative of the most basic tenets of decency and privacy in our society. If this was an episode in some dystopian novel or film, people would laugh at the very thought of such a cruel and ridiculous requirement being imposed on girls, as young as ten, in this state, in this country and in this century.

But it’s not: it’s a bill that a small majority in the NH House and Senate have prioritized sending to the governor. This bill does not solve problems in New Hampshire; it creates problems for all of our daughters.

Similar to how men had to adjust criteria and groupings and expectations when women were (finally) allowed to participate in competitive sports, we need to make sure we are being inclusive of all athletes in 2024.

Gov. Sununu, please take the time to consider the harm, trauma and embarrassment this bill will create for children in our state and promptly veto it when it reaches your desk. HB 1205 is unnecessary, misguided and does nothing to protect our children.