Tennessee Republicans passed a bill last year banning transgender students from competing under their preferred gender in a measure to protect biological females from bodily injury during sports competitions. It became the 3rd state in the country to enact such a law amongst much debate from parents, families, and students. Now state lawmakers believe it necessary to push for stricter penalties against schools that violate this law.
By early November of 2021, LGBTQ civil rights groups had filed a lawsuit against Tennessee Republicans’ transgender ban. They are supporting 14-year-old female born, male transgender golfer Luc Esquivel, because this student is upset that they cannot compete under their gender preference. Their argument is that by making someone who was born female compete with other females instead of the boys they identify with the law encourages bullying, and prevents trans kids from experiencing positive sports participation all to uphold a law that prevents a situation that they do not believe exists.
Whether these trans activists believe that natural born girls and women are facing unprecedented challenges in women’s sports — thanks to biological males entering their competitions — or not is a moot point. In truth, whether trans students have a constitutional right to enter sports situations that is likely to cause them or others bodily harm by competing as the opposite sex is being brought to the forefront. Trans boys who share locker rooms with biological males are outnumbered and vulnerable. Trans girls who share locker rooms with biological women are removing protected spaces that were created specifically for women without male genitalia because of the need for safety from biological males who are bigger, faster, and stronger than them. Tennessee Republicans are facing a federal suit that is likely to determine the fate of countless natural born female athletes.
Now, Tennessee Republicans are moving to withhold state funds from schools that do not comply with the transgender ban. This may be due to the nature of the bill itself, which specifically focuses on preserving the rights and safety of natural born females who are at a physical disadvantage to individuals born male, or it may be in direct response to schools that have refused to update their policies to protect the rights of biological girls in their district. The Metro Nashville Public Schools refused to comply with the state’s transgender ban indefinitely last year.
School board members expressed concern for transgender students and natural born female students, yet no one discussed the impact this has on young boys who are forced to compete with a trans boy who they know is at a disadvantage. No one questions how they have to make a decision to either play hard and emotionally or physically hurt this biological female or forfeit their full efforts in order to protect someone who is not properly equipped yet still allowed to put themselves in harm’s way. Other board members expressed a desire to wait and see how the courts handle the situation, thus forcing Tennessee Republicans to add additional provisions, being that whether the law is currently being challenged or not, it is currently the law, and schools are required — by law — to abide by it.
The original bill itself does not mention what kind of punishment should be imposed on schools that do not comply with the policy. It merely focuses on the rights of young female athletes. Now that enough time has passed for everyone involved to react, Tennessee Republicans find it necessary to draft specific punishments in order to force schools to comply with the law. Next up, the bill has to pass full chambers before it can head to the desk of Gov. Bill Lee.