Trans rights challenged in Texas' third special legislative session

Monday, September 20, 2021

Texas legislators are heading into their third special session Monday with several controversial topics on the agenda, including transgender student participation in sports and gender-affirming health care for trans youth.

Lawmakers will consider banning transgender students from playing on interscholastic teams that align with their gender identity. Children in grades K through 12 would only be allowed to play sports that correspond with their sex assigned at birth or sex designated on their original birth certificate.

Texas lawmakers alone have introduced more than 40 anti-trans bills this year.

At least 30 states across the country have introduced similar bills on trans student-athletes. So far, eight states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Dakota and West Virginia -- have passed the bills into laws or signed them as executive orders.

The laws are being challenged in Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Some groups in support of the bills, like the conservative Christian group Concerned Women for America, claim that trans girls have an unfair advantage.

"The issue is about the basic fairness and opportunities that women have fought for centuries to obtain," the group said in a statement to ABC News. "The disparity comes when forcing women to compete against a biological male that has innate biological differences, giving them physical advantages that simply cannot be erased."

There is no evidence that trans athletes disproportionately dominate sports when playing on teams that correspond with their gender identity. There is also no evidence that they have an advantage.

Other anti-trans bills on the special session docket include bans on gender-affirming therapy, counseling, surgery or health care. In some cases, allowing a child or teen under the age of 18 gender-affirming health care may be considered child abuse, if HB22 is signed into law.

LGBTQ+ advocates say these bills only serve to tarnish the mental health and safety of trans students.

"Like any other student, trans young people just want to stay healthy, go to school and spend time with their friends and loved ones," Andy Marra, the executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, told ABC News. "For transgender students living in states where their very lives are under attack, it can be near impossible to focus on much else but surviving."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that discrimination can lead to poor mental health, suicide, substance abuse, violence and other health risks for trans youth.

Young transgender students are also three times more likely to attempt suicide than their cisgender peers, the CDC reported.

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