Public comment heard on Texas bill banning transgender athletes in high school, college

Should student-athletes who've transitioned from male to female, or vice versa, be allowed to compete against athletes matching their current gender?

At the state capitol, lawmakers are considering Senate Bill 29 which seeks to limit a student's participation in sports to the sex specified on their original birth certificate.

Supporters of the bill contend the measure preserves fairness and physical safety, particularly for female athletes. 

"Were females allowed to compete against biological males, they would automatically be placed on an uneven playing field since males have more bone, muscle mass, and lung capacity," said Shannon Jaquette, representing the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops.

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"Girls deserve to compete on a level playing field. Allowing those (transgender students) to compete in girls’ sports destroys fair competition and women’s athletic opportunities," said Mary Castle with Texas Values Action.

And yet opposition to SB 29 has been vocal and ferocious.

"It is a messaging bill and the message is cruelty," said Holt Lackey of Equality Texas.

"This is basically a show me your genitals bill," said Gordy Carmona, a former counselor for LGTBQ youth.

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Critics label the proposed restriction dangerously discriminatory and a deeply flawed solution for a "non-existent problem." Among the most ardent opponents are parents rearing "trans kids".

"Jeremy played football because he loved the game and because his teammates were his best friends. Sadly, SB 29 strikes at the heart of that joy," said Jo Ivester, mother of a transgender son.

Other witnesses warned of the catastrophic consequences of exclusion for a vulnerable segment of society already ravaged by self-injury and worse.

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"Trans children are killing themselves because they are told they don't belong," said Mandy Giles, parent of two transgender kids living in Houston 

"When we tell them that they don't belong and that there is something wrong with them. I've seen the end of the path when we tell kids that, and it's a grave," said Ash Hall speaking in opposition to SB-29.

The legislation has been left pending before the State Affairs Committee of the Texas Senate.