March 11, 2021: The passage of SB 2536 in Mississippi marks the first piece of state legislation to be signed into law during the 2021 legislative session that targets transgender athletes’ participation in sports. During this legislative session, states continue to misuse girls and women’s sports to promote discrimination against transgender individuals, and all too often, transgender youth. Unfortunately, there are dozens more bills similar to this discriminatory legislation being considered in states across the country.
As the preeminent ally and advocate of girls and women in sport, the Women’s Sports Foundation is gravely concerned when parties attempt to use sport participation as a weapon against some of the most marginalized members of our society.
Let us not lose sight of the most valuable aspects of sport participation, which go well beyond the medals: to instill health and wellness; to build camaraderie and belonging; to learn discipline and leadership. Long after the race, game or match concludes, these are the life-long benefits of sport that drive the mission of WSF to enable girls and women, including transgender girls and women, to reach their potential in sport and life. These bills would unfairly deprive transgender girls and women of these critical developmental opportunities and experiences.
There are many well documented, known challenges to girls’ and women’s sports, and we welcome all to join WSF in the fight to overcome them. Things like the lack of Title IX understanding and compliance; girls in underserved communities facing inequity in sport access, resources and opportunity; the fight for equal pay; the lack of sponsorship support and media coverage; harassment and abuse of female athletes and women working in sports; and perennial under-recognition of Paralympic women’s sports. These are some of the real challenges to opportunities for girls and women, not the inclusion of transgender girls and women.
Regardless of one’s race, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, ability, ZIP code or family income, girls’ and women’s sports are stronger when we prioritize equity and inclusion. All girls. All women. All sports. Society wins when our humanity prevails.
We implore legislators to stop using girls’ and women’s sports as a vehicle to discriminate.