State LGBTQ Youth Organization Responds to Press Conference Attacking Transgender Children and Youth

The Real Story is the Growing Support and Understanding of Young Transgender Pennsylvanians

HARRISBURG, Pa. — On Monday, April 5, 2021, five state Representatives will lead a press conference promoting their introduction of a dangerous bill targeting transgender children. The Pennsylvania Youth Congress unequivocally opposes this legislation, which would ban trans children from school sports. While we are confident this bill will not pass, its introduction in our state sends a devastating message to trans children and youth.

Their legislation is called the “Protect Women’s Sports Act” but is in fact making women less safe by using the power of the state to perpetuate unfounded gender stereotypes and to subject girls to invasive monitoring. The stated goal of the bill is to explicitly exclude the participation of students who are transgender from all public school athletic programs. This is beyond alarming.

The Pennsylvania Youth Congress reminds legislators that the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) issued a policy on this in 2014. There have been no outcry concerns because it is not an issue. Instead, this legislation is part of a nationally-coordinated campaign from anti-LGBTQ organizations seeking to target vulnerable young people because they do not understand them, or do not want to provide inclusion for LGBTQ people. The proponents of these bills want to exploit the lack of education on transgender youth to justify discrimination against trans and LGBTQ people in all aspects of public life.

Preston Heldibridle, State Policy Associate for the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, said, “Trans youth deserve inclusion and respect. Enough with taking cheap political points at the expense of the very lives of trans youth. We are your children, students, and community members, not the boogeyman. Talk with us. Please take the time to learn about why this exclusionary bill is so hurtful and damaging – and far removed from the reality of school athletics in Pennsylvania.”

Further, he shared, “The truth is that Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly support LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections and want us to continue moving our commonwealth forward to be more inclusive. PIAA already has a policy on gender participation and this bill undermines their authority. Trans students have been playing sports in Pennsylvania for years with no issues whatsoever. There are countless examples of trans students playing school sports without any issues and full affirmation by other athletes.”

This type of law was passed in Idaho and stopped with a preliminary injunction in federal court last August by a President Trump-appointed judge. That will surely be the result in other states. Earlier in the pandemic, the NCAA publicly considered withdrawing their March Madness events from Idaho until this was resolved, before moving all events to Indiana.

This legislation would be completely unadministrable. The science on sex and gender diversity has long been known and was centered in a hearing held by the House Health Committee last year. Doctors from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Penn State Health explained that sex is not binary and includes multiple characteristics, such as chromosomes, genitalia, and hormones. There is a massive amount of human diversity in those attributes. This bill would have school officials charged with grading a student’s sex in order to play sports, through genital exams or blood work. It is not a road we should go down in Pennsylvania.

It is up to the conscience of each legislator as to how they want their values to be known. No lawmaker should want to be branded as a politician of hate. This is the same conversation the General Assembly had four years ago when there was an unsuccessful effort to remove healthcare coverage under CHIP for trans youth.

Jason Landau Goodman, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, said, “In the 1990s it was about banning gay gym teachers, and in the 2020s it’s about banning trans students from athletic opportunities. This kind of discrimination should have no place in public schools. We want more students to play coming out of the pandemic, not less.”

In February, the Republican Governor of Utah Spencer Fox said the following in response to this bill in their state: “These kids are…they’re just trying to stay alive…I just think there’s a better way. And I hope there will be enough Grace in our state to find a better solution. I don’t understand all of this. I don’t. But I’m trying to understand more. I’m trying to listen and learn and, again, trying to help kids figure out who they are and keep them alive. I apologize for getting a little emotional, but when you spend time with these kids, it changes your heart in important ways. And so I want to try to improve that message and see if we can’t find a better way to work together.”

The Pennsylvania Youth Congress urges all members of the General Assembly to not sign onto these dangerous and toxic bills or to remove their names as a sponsor if they have already done so. There is always time to do the right thing. The right things for women’s sports include more funding and more opportunity, not exclusion.

On behalf of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, Heldibridle adds, “We want to send the message directly to trans young people across the commonwealth that you are loved by far more people than those who espouse hatred towards us. Our lives are precious, and no headline from lawmakers exclaiming hate, violence, or discrimination takes that away from us. The story of trans youth in our state is one of resiliency and love. Those seeking to write us out of public life are living on the outdated margins of society. Our futures will always be so much brighter than the darkness of these hateful proposals.”