At a CNN Town Hall on June 4, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley falsely claimed a link between transgender athletes and suicide among high school girls: "How are we supposed to get our girls used to the fact that biological boys are in their locker rooms?" Haley said. "And then we wonder why a third of our teenage girls seriously contemplated suicide last year. We should be growing strong girls, confident girls." In reality, suicide is much higher among the LGBTQIA+ community in high school than the straight girls Haley’s referring to.
Inaccurate rhetoric like hers advances discrimination against LGBTQIA+ youth, putting them in harm’s way. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people age 10-24, but LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers. As a result of the bullying they’re exposed to from the homophobic media their parents watch, 45 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. If Haley wasn’t a cowering homophobe, she’d know that “strong, confident girls” are raised to learn that acceptance for everyone should be what’s taught in schools, not a standard of ostracizing those who might not look exactly like her.
One popular political attack is on transgender athletes. The argument was reinforced in a transphobic recent article on this site by Tom Joyce (with its horrific misgendering and dismissive conclusion “people don’t like it”) saying, “a biological male athlete on a woman’s sporting team has an unfair advantage.”
These attacks on transgender youth generally, and trans athletes specifically, are fueled by . These bills represent a cruel effort to further stigmatize and discriminate against LGBTQ+ people across the country, specifically trans youth who simply want to live as their true selves and grow into who they are. After failing to prohibit trans and non-binary people’s access to restrooms, legislators have pivoted to using misinformation about sports as the next way to score political points.
Between 2017 and 2019, transgender sprinters Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood combined to win 15 championship races, prompting a lawsuit.
Supporters of transgender rights say the Connecticut case gets so much attention from conservatives because it’s the only example of its kind. “It’s their Exhibit A, and there’s no Exhibit B—absolutely none,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a prominent trans-rights attorney. The multiple sports bills, he says, address a threat that doesn’t exist.
There’s no authoritative count of how many trans athletes have competed recently in high school or college sports. Neither the NCAA nor most state high school athletic associations collect that data; in the states that do, the numbers are minimal: No more than five students currently in Kansas, nine in Ohio over five years.
You don’t have to look far to debunk the ridiculous myths around transgender athletes.
Women and girls who are trans face discrimination and violence that makes it difficult to even stay in school. According to the U.S. Trans Survey, 22 percent of trans women who were perceived as trans in school were harassed so badly they had to leave school. Another 10 percent were kicked out of school. The idea that women and girls have an advantage because they are trans ignores the actual conditions of their lives. Trans athletes vary in athletic ability just like cisgender athletes.
Believing and perpetuating myths about trans athletes is harmful. Denying trans people the right to participate doesn’t just hurt trans people, it hurts all of us.
In the recent Bud Light brew-haha over the company working with trans actress Dylan Mulvaney, conservatives claim that the “go woke go broke” trope caused Anheuser-Busch to lose its top spot in American beer sales to Mexican-made Modelo. But it wasn’t working with an LGBTQ influencer that caused the downfall of Bud Light, it was their mishandling of the fallout. The company went silent, didn’t support their brand partner, and tried to release a poorly-slapped-together “look over here at our Clydesdales” distraction campaign. Public relations and marketing firms will study for years the impact this reaction or lack of reaction had on sales; they lost not only the MAGA crowd, from Kid Rock to redneck backyard shootouts, but they also the potential support of the LGBTQ community who would’ve backed the brand’s products up had they stood by Mulvaney, even losing their Corporate Quality Index score by the Human Rights Campaign.
On a more personal level, during this Pride month, I’ve observed the comments sections of queer influencers (including my own) and seen the homophobic themes: one of the arguments is this: Why do they have to shove it down our throats and flaunt it? Why can’t they just keep it to themselves? I don’t care what they do as long as I don’t have to hear about it! When is the STRAIGHT pride parade and STRAIGHT month?
Bitch, life is a straight parade in 11 straight months. Straight couples hold hands and walk down the street without worrying about homophobic slurs. Straight people can go to any country on earth and not have their marriage outlawed, or worry about getting killed. And flaunting it? Do straight people wear wedding rings and post every single anniversary, barbeque and trip to a brewery or boating event on Facebook with couples selfies? Because many of them do that a lot more than gays. Straight people need the month of June to consider their own discomfort if they have it and are somehow incapable of being quiet or being an ally.
What’s the problem that causes you to write nasty comments and articles all month? Homophobia is not a gay problem it's a you problem. It isn’t about an imaginary fear of your imaginary grandchild being uncomfortable on some imaginary sports field or imaginary bathroom at a school. Those are projections of your own outdated “marriage is between a man and a woman” issues, and that grandchild deserves more; they deserve to be taught that love is love. That acceptance is what belongs in our society. That gender is actually one of the least interesting things about what makes a person a person, so if it changes, who cares? Mostly those children and grandchildren the conservatives pretend to be so concerned about (except when it comes to gun rights as they apply to school shootings) need to be taught what people choose to do with their bodies and their love lives is no one’s business but his, her or their own.