South Carolina's Attack on Transgender Youth

On Wednesday, March 3rd, the South Carolina Special Laws Subcommittee will recommence their hearing on the controversial “Save Women’s Sports Act” (HB3477). This bill targets transgender youth as it would require all public middle and high school sports teams to be designated as “men’s”, “women’s”, or “co-ed.” This would require all private schools that compete against public school teams to do the same. This act essentially grants only those who are biologically born a female allowance to compete on the women’s teams. According to The State, S.C. Governor Henry McMaster supports this bill heavily and promises to sign it if it were to reach his desk.

The opportunity to participate in athletics throughout middle and high school can be vital to the mental health of students. As the group of medical professionals opposing the bill stated, “Participation in athletics is a vital part of students’ well-being, including their physical, social, and emotional health; involvement in student sports provides young people with lessons about leadership, self-discipline, success, and failure.” This bill is an attempt to limit opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community. This piece of legislation could also lead young individuals to be outed before they are ready. As a pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, Elizabeth Mack, stated: this is “an invasion of privacy and developmentally devastating.”

This bill restricts transgender youth from leading the lives they want to. One study found that transgender and non-conforming adolescents can be 3 to 13 times more likely to develop a mental health condition than those who identify with their birth-assigned gender (cis-gendered individuals). Studies have proven that team sports can help to improve students’ mental stability. Particularly, those in grades 8-12 who participate in a team sport experience less stress and overall better mental well-being going into adulthood. In trying to pass this bill, the South Carolina legislature is hindering young, transgender individuals from practicing habits that would be beneficial to their mental and physical health.

Not only is this bill harmful to the health of an entire population, it also seems to be happening at an odd time. South Carolina is in the midst of battling the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislature’s efforts concerning HB3477 affect the physical and the mental well-being of South Carolinians as they neglect the need for COVID relief further and choose to pour their energy into an unfair bill. Like the S.C. Heartbeat Bill, this attack is coordinated. States, such as Alabama and Idaho, have been developing and attempting to pass similar legislation that would bar transgender athletes from competing in youth sports. This comes after President Joe Biden’s executive order on combating LGBTQ+ discrimination. The same organizations who discriminated against the transgender community throughout the restroom discourse have furthered their narrow-minded narrative onto sports. As Chase Strangio (ACLU Deputy Director for Transgender Justice) states, “This is about a reflexive fear of letting go of state control over the idea of a coherent and binary sex category”. 

South Carolina has used taxpayer money to reverse progress. SC officials have also thrown their attention to criminalizing healthcare for transgender youth as well. These combined efforts are telling to the type of officials running the state’s government. This is not about protection. This is discrimination. HB3477 is sexist and transphobic. 

As the Campaign for Southern Equality Community Director Ivy Hill says, “You’re telling them that they’re not really a woman even though they are. And your body changes when you transition. Those things...they change your muscle mass and all of that.” This bill sends a message to young transgender athletes. The message says: South Carolina doesn't support you. It is already difficult enough to come out in the United States, the high risks of depression and suicide in the LGBTQ+ community show that. Laws of this sort evoke a negative stigma around the community-- leaving millions to feel isolated and unaccepted. 

Luckily, there are efforts to combat this bill. SC United for Justice and Equality is an organization that has been running a letter-writing campaign to representatives, urging them to vote against the bill. Several other organizations, like the SC Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network, have also been helping people register to deliver testimonies at the hearing on March 3rd. The United States has a long history of discrimination on all levels, let us not further that reputation. Let us acknowledge the faults in our laws and help to change them, and let us not create more that coincide with prejudiced ideology.