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Transgender kids testify against Missouri bill banning them from sports: ‘They’re playing for fun’

Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
A bill in the Missouri Senate sponsored by Sen. Mike Moon would prohibit students who were assigned male at birth from participating in sports teams for women or girls.

Supporters of the bill argued that allowing transgender athletes to play puts cisgender women at a disadvantage. Transgender kids and their parents said participating in team sports is about more than winning.

The Missouri Senate Education Committee heard testimony on Tuesday on a bill that would bar transgender women from participating in sports teams that match their gender identity.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Moon, a Republican from Ash Grove, is called the “Save Women’s Sports Act.” It would prohibit students who were assigned male at birth from participating in middle school, high school and post-secondary teams for women or girls.

Avery Jackson, a 14-year-old from Kansas City, told the committee that transgender kids like her should be able to play sports without the issue becoming politicized.

“These are all kids and they're playing for fun," Jackson said. "I don't understand why this has to be something bigger than that. They're just kids trying to have fun."

Jackson said excluding transgender youth from playing on the sports team aligning with their gender could increase suicide rates. Other opponents of the bill said it would target students who are already marginalized.

Yet others spoke about the positive impact playing sports has on kids beyond winning competitions or medals.

“As an athlete, I can tell you the valuable life lessons that I learned, pushing myself to my absolute limit, what it means to put others before myself and what it looks like to have a group of people working in harmony towards a similar goal,” said Patrick Sasser, father of a transgender daughter and a longtime track and cross country coach in Columbia Public Schools.

“I'm sad that my daughter was robbed of that experience because she didn't fit an arbitrary, antiquated view of gender.”

Sasser said more can be done to protect women’s sports by giving them equal funding, coverage and opportunities.

Supporters of the bill argued that the bill is needed because they said transgender athletes have an unfair advantage over cisgender female participants.

“If the transgender community wants to fit in, the first place to start would be to stop taking the spots on teams records, podiums, scholarships and opportunities away from biological females that have fought and earned the right to have them,” said Jenny Shultz, a former college athlete.

Other supporters voiced concerns about transgender women dominating sports teams.

The proposed bill would also allow students to pursue legal action if they believe they suffered harm or were deprived of an athletic opportunity as a result of a transgender person playing on a women's sports team.

The bill has yet to be voted out of committee.

Two other bills pending in the legislature would also target transgender people. A bill in the Missouri Senate would prohibit gender-confirming hormonal and surgical treatments for minors. A bill in the Missouri House would prohibit changing the sex designation on a birth certificate.

More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
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