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Students, advocates concerned about newly passed Texas bill restricting transgender student-athletes

The bill requires students to compete on teams aligned with their gender at their birth.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Governor Greg Abbott is poised to sign a new bill that would restrict how transgender athletes can participate in school sports in Texas.

Sunday, the Texas House voted 76-61 to send a bill, HB 25, to Abbott’s desk that requires students to compete on teams aligned with their gender at their birth.

Barrett, who asked to not share his last name, ran track and threw discus in middle school in Austin ISD.

“I loved playing sports,” Barrett said. “I think it was fun. I loved the experience.”

Barrett didn’t tell teammates he was transgender and competed with girls at the time.

“They even had this silly little joke like, 'You’re one of the guys, and I’m like thank you,'” he said. “I was really closeted. I didn’t have to explain everything, but I don’t want that to be how it happens.”

One of the bill’s authors, Rep. Valoree Swanson (R-Spring) said during roughly seven hours of debate Thursday that the bill is about equal competition.

“We want girls to be able to compete fairly and the only way we can do that is deciding it by biological sex,” she said. “Biological males, in addition to having much higher testosterone levels, have many physiological advantages that girls just cannot overcome.”

Ricardo Martinez leads Equality Texas, a group focused on LGBTQ rights in the state, and he says by, their count, the bill is one of 50 this year targeting Texas trans population.

“Transgender people aren’t new. Transgender people been participating in sports, K-12 sports, for a long time and it’s never been an issue,” Martinez said. “They are marginalizing an already marginalized population.”

The Associated Press reports five other states, have passed laws or implemented executive orders this year limiting the ability of transgender youths to play sports or receive certain medical treatment.

“This bill is not about whether we recognize certain genders,” Swanson said. “It’s all about having biological sex so we can fairly participate in spots in UIL.”

Transgender students and advocates are concerned about increased bullying from the bill and issues with mental health.

“I’m not advised on that data. We heard about it in hearings, and for some reason they never gave us the data on it,” Swanson said when asked about the mental health concerns on the House floor.

From January to August, the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ suicide hotline, received nearly 4,000 calls from Texas transgender youth.

“It’s awful to know that there are so many people who are struggling with this and that somebody’s like, 'let me put up a law to make this worse,'” Barrett said.

The bill’s authors and advocates say their focus was on fair competition, but Barrett believes it should’ve been on empathy.

“You can never truly know what somebody else’s life is like because you’re only in your own,” he said. “Everyone should have the chance to be happy about who they are and what they’re doing.”