Queer Columbus: ‘Save Women’s Sports Act’ extends beyond the field

The unnecessary legislation targeted at a handful of female student athletes would be another step toward trans erasure.
Image from a 2017 rally outside of the White House to protect the rights of transgender students.
Image from a 2017 rally outside of the White House to protect the rights of transgender students. Victoria Pickering

The Ohio Statehouse is currently considering House Bill 6, dubbed the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” which if passed would ban transgender girls from participating in school sports at any level, including college. 

This legislation is being considered despite the already strict Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) standards, which require trans girls to be on hormones for a full year before participating on a girls’ team and/or “demonstrate … sound medical evidence that she does not possess physical (bone structure, muscle mass, testosterone, hormonal, etc.) or physiological advantages over genetic females of the same age group.”

There are, in short, pretty hefty requirements already in place for trans girls who want to participate in competitive sports. 

The current system ensures that trans girls have no physical advantages over cis girls, while attempting to include trans athletes, who must take additional efforts in order to step onto the field. To participate on a team, a trans girl has to come out to her parents, likely meet with a psychologist, go to the doctor, get on hormones, and then have a follow-up examination. The current system puts the onus of “preserving the integrity of women’s sports” on trans athletes and their families, but it’s a system, according to OHSAA officials, that has worked.  

Ohio is weighing this legislation at a time when trans rights are under attack across the country. According to the Trans Legislation Tracker, 533 anti-trans bills have been proposed in state legislatures this year. Of those, 62 have passed and 374 remain active. In the last week alone, both Kansas and Florida passed restrictive anti-trans bathroom bills, with Kansas legislators overriding the veto of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

Ohio’s “Save Women’s Sports Act” has been met with opposition. In April, more than 80 people submitted testimony against the bill, introduced in February by State Rep. Jena Powell. (A similar version of the legislation failed to pass in 2022.)

“Assuming that all people who were assigned male at birth will naturally be stronger, faster or generally more athletic than those assigned female at birth is insulting to all female athletes – cisgender and transgender alike,” testified swim coach Mallory Golski, who shared her experience coaching a transgender swimmer.

The reality is that women’s sports don’t need to be saved from trans girls. Current OHSAA policy is restrictive enough that just six trans athletes are currently participating in school sports in the entire state of Ohio. And yet, the Republicans pushing this legislation are intent on removing the last trans student athletes from the field. "It does feel like there's a target [on my back] and that they are using me and other trans female athletes as political pawns," one of the potentially impacted trans athletes told ABC News 5.

Officials from OHSAA have said that the current rules work. And yet, proponents of this bill are moving to ban trans girls from sports altogether. It’s not about fairness or “saving women’s sports.” And these lawmakers don’t care about the myriad steps undertaken by trans athletes to ensure there is no on-field advantage. The intention of this legislation is to show that transgender people aren’t welcome no matter how far they’ve gone to assuage the concerns of those around them. The intention is to eradicate trans people from public spaces.

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