Two new Republican bills would ban transgender student athletes from participating in women’s sports from elementary school through college in Wisconsin.
The bills would prohibit students to join teams that don’t coincide with their biological sex assigned at birth, unless the sport is classified as “coed.” This legislation would apply to all Wisconsin educational systems, from K-12 schools and private institutions, to the University of Wisconsin System and technical colleges.
Rep. Barb Dittrich, who announced the bills, believes they would increase fairness for women and girls in athletics. She also said it supports Title IX, a federal law that bans discrimination on the basis of sex at any institution that gets federal aid.
"Now in a fractured, well-meaning attempt at inclusion, women's achievements have once again been put at a great risk of loss," Dittrich said at a press conference Tuesday. "Biological females are losing opportunities at titles, records, scholarships and even participation at times."
Dittrich said that the only reason Evers wouldn’t sign the bills into law is because he is “sexist.”
“I think if the governor really cares about women, he absolutely should advance this legislation and there should be no reason why it doesn’t go anywhere, unless he’s a sexist," Dittrich said. “[Women] can’t win against men, that’s the biology, the reality. Why would you compete if you knew you couldn’t win? We want a fair playing field.”
However, if the bills are passed in the Republican controlled Legislature, there is a strong chance the bills will be vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers.
"My message to Wisconsin's transgender kids and students today is simple: I see you. You are welcome, you are wanted and you belong," Evers said in a tweet Tuesday.
Even if the bills are not passed, these bills being proposed to the government is hard enough on the transgender community in Wisconsin, according to transgender advocates.
"It sends a really harmful message that we even have to have these conversations, and it makes, I think, kids feel like their identities aren't legitimate or real or valued," Fair Wisconsin Executive Director Megin McDonell told The Cap Times, who is a parent of a transgender teen.
The bills would require schools to divide their teams or sports based on one of three categories based on the sex of the student assigned at birth — participants who are biological males, participants who are biologically female and participants of “both sexes.”
The legislation also clearly states that biological male students cannot participate in a sport or on a team that is meant for females.
Current NCAA rules require trans female athletes to have had at least one year of hormone treatment to participate on a women’s team, while trans male athletes who aren’t taking testosterone can participate on either a men’s or women’s team.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School recently made headlines for allowing the Women's Liberation Front, a group with similar anti-transgender attitudes as those expressed in Dittrich’s bills, into its yearly job fair.
Opposition to the bills
State activist groups and lawmakers were quick to respond to the proposed bills, with a protest held outside the capitol Tuesday morning and a host of legislators condemning the proposals.
“This proposed legislation is cruel and discriminatory and will cause further harm to children who are already under attack for simply being themselves,” five legislators said in a release. “There is no place for discrimination in our schools, and that includes organized athletics. We must welcome and champion all athletes, regardless of gender identity or expression.”
The rally outside of the capitol, organized by Fair Wisconsin and McDonell, also drew Madison Rep. Francesca Hong.
“Anti-trans legislation has no place in Wisconsin or anywhere else,” Hong said in a Tweet. “To our trans youth today: we see you, we love you and we will fight these hateful bills.”
Other community activists, like Helen Boyd, who is a teacher from Appleton, also spoke up to oppose the bills.
“This proposed legislation that intends to ‘protect’ women and girls in sports does nothing of the kind,” she said in a release. “Trans girls are girls. Trans women are women. And everyone has a right to play.”