As the Louisiana State Legislature convened for its first week of the Regular Session, a number of issues promise to take the political stage. While the regular topics like equal pay, coastal restoration, education, tort reform, and civil rights characterize much of the proposed legislation, one Senator is apparently concerned about another issue: the genitals of high school athletes.
Louisiana State Senator Beth Mizell (R-Franklinton) prefiled a bill that could subject transgender school athletes to an examination of their genitals, genetics, and other highly sensitive reproductive traits – all in an effort to determine their “biological sex.”
Senate Bill 172 has been titled the “Save Women’s Sports Act.” The bill was praised by Gene Mills, president of the religious, right-wing Louisiana Family Forum, who claimed that allowing trans athletes to compete “basically dismantles Title IX” of the Civil Rights Act.
While Mills and Mizell assert that the intent is to prevent an alleged “biological advantage” in school athletics, the bill provides a cruel remedy to the controversy – forced genital examinations of trans student athletes if someone disputes the sex they were assigned at birth.
In addition to requiring that women’s sports teams be restricted to “students who are biological females,” the text of SB 172 requires that female athletes establish that they are biologically female “if a dispute arises” about their sex. Under the new law, Louisiana Revised Statute 4:443(C)(1) would require a doctor to establish a female athlete’s so-called biological sex based on “the student’s internal and external reproductive anatomy.”
“When a minor is coerced by an authority figure to have a physical examination of their ‘external reproductive anatomy,’ what we’re really describing is sexual assault,” Dylan Waguespack said. Waguespack is the Board President of Louisiana Trans Advocates.
The text of the bill does not explain what constitutes a “dispute” of a student’s biological sex, leading to the possibility of arbitrary enforcement, or enforcement as a form of harassment. Since the legislation does not specify who can make that dispute, “this scenario could be presumably initiated not just by another student, but by an opposing team’s coach, parent, a school principal, referee, or even Senator Mizell herself,” Waguespack said about the law.
As a result, the student whose gender was challenged “would not be allowed to compete until they had expensive and time-consuming medical testing done,” he said. “That’s a decision that would result in emotional consequences the student would have to live with for the rest of their lives.”
The legislation claims that its intent is to promote fairness in high school athletics, as men typically have higher muscle mass and levels of testosterone. The bill does not consider that such advantages do not emerge until puberty – and a trans athlete who received hormone treatments before puberty would not exhibit these changes. Dr. Nick Gorton, a physician who has worked with the National Collegiate Athletic Association on this issue, noted that 5% of male and female athletes fall outside of the “normal” levels of testosterone already.
Nor does the bill provide the same requirements of genital examinations for trans male student athletes, leading the bill into murky waters on constitutional grounds.
“It’s an absurd law that not only discriminates unfairly against trans girls but also subjects cis[gender] girls to unconscionable levels of scrutiny,” Elizabeth Loupe said. Loupe is a trans attorney who works in criminal defense. “It demands a level of intrusion of a girl’s or woman’s privacy that absolutely no one should be comfortable with.”
A similar bill passed an Alabama House committee in February. Another bill that makes it illegal for doctors to provide treatments to trans minors passed the Alabama Senate. Carmarion D. Anderson, the director of the Alabama chapter of the Human Rights Campaign, said the law could have potentially devastating effects on the mental health of trans students, many of whom already suffer dysphoria and isolation.
These claims are supported by the American Psychological Association, which recommends a “gender affirmative” approach to trans children that supports their gender identity and builds self-confidence. In the absence of such an affirmative approach, trans children will experience severe rates of depression, anxiety, suicidality, and self-harm.
The Louisiana High School Athletic Association already requires student athletes to participate with the gender that was assigned on their birth certificate, and trans students must achieve a sex change operation and win an appeal to be allowed to play with a different gender.
Senator Mizell’s bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Education and awaits hearing. You can read about different state requirements for trans students to participate in high school athletics here.