During public testimony before the Alaska School Activities Association board on Monday, some Alaskans staunchly opposed a proposed rule that would prohibit transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports.
The testimony was in response to a proposed change in ASAA’s current bylaws, which allow transgender girls to play on a team that aligns with their gender identity, regardless of their sex at birth. The proposed new bylaws would amend that rule to create two divisions of sports teams: one that is made up of students of any gender and one that is strictly open to students who were assigned female at birth.
Dozens of Alaska residents were signed up to testify against the proposed rule, with many calling the rule anti-trans. The hearing was held at the Valdez Civic and Convention Center.
Phillip Moser, a testifier from Juneau, was one of the testifiers who showed support for transgender girls in sports. “Transgender kids, transgender people do not pose a risk to other kids in schools. They are at risk themselves, more now than ever,” he said.
Moser was joined by other testifiers like Selah Bauer who expressed her distaste for the proposed ruling.
“This is a legislation that has been put forth by people who are plainly put, transphobic,” Bauer said.
Some of the opposition comes from concern about the board overstepping its authority. There are currently no laws that prohibit transgender girls from participating in girls’ high school sports in the state. Although the proposed House Bill 27 could change that if passed. The lack of official law surrounding this issue prompted questions about the power of the athletics board.
Other testifiers spoke to their concerns about the direction of the state as a whole. Anchorage resident Jamie Chope said that inclusive sports teams helped him and his wife grow and learn. He said that having diverse sports teams made their lives better. And said that he hopes his child, and his child’s friends, will have the same opportunity to participate in inclusive sports.
But if the rule change did pass, Chope said that he and his wife might reevaluate staying in Alaska. “Our lives in Alaska would be diminished, and we would reconsider whether our young family would continue to make this state the place we live and work,” he said.
Laura Steele, a testifier from Juneau, shared similar concerns to Chope about the future of Alaska’s children in sports. She said that while her daughter was only 2 years old, Steele hoped that she could grow up to play sports that were inclusive to everyone.
“I’m not afraid of trans girls sharing a changing room with my daughter one day. I’m not afraid of her being beaten by trans girls in sports,” Steele said. “What I am afraid of is the violence and bigotry that other people’s daughters are now facing by policies like this one that your body has proposed.”
While many testifiers seemed in stark opposition to the proposed rule change, some were in favor of it. Of those in favor was Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer.
In her written testimony, she said that the proposed rule change would protect girls, which she says is the demographic that has been left out of the conversation.
“You know like I do, that if the proposed bylaw change before you is not adopted, we will lose an even-playing field in sports for girls and females will face discrimination,” Hughes said in her written testimony.
Her testimony also addressed the issue of high suicide and depression rates for transgender individuals, something that some testifiers in opposition to the proposed change said would increase if trans students were prohibited from participating in girls’ sports. Hughes said that if the board did not pass this new rule, rates of suicide and depression would worsen among teenage girls.
Hughes has also pushed back against accusations that supporters of the rule change are transphobic.
She noted that the new rules would not take away equal access to sports. “Every. Single. Athlete would have ample opportunities to participate in school sports,” she said in her testimony.
However, not all testifiers seemed to share Hughes’ opinion. Hope Uele, calling from Anchorage, questioned the motivations of the board.
“ASAA’s mission statement is to provide and promote opportunities through activities for all Alaska students,” she said. “So unless the definition of ‘all’ has changed, the proposed proposal goes against that mission statement.”
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