READER POST: A couple days ago, as I was heading out the door, I received an email from the high school tennis coach requesting a meeting to discuss my trans son’s eligibility to play. I knew, I just knew, what was going to happen next. I drove to my medical appointment fighting back tears and mentally repeating, Put it in a box. Just for a minute. It’s got to go in a box right now. I live in Texas and, for those unaware, the state legislature signed HB25 into law last October after several failed attempts with other, similar legislation, and a commitment from Governor Abbott to continue calling special session after special session until one of the anti-trans measures passed.
The law states that:
…interscholastic athletic team sponsored or authorized by a school district or open-enrollment charter school may not allow a student to compete in an interscholastic athletic competition sponsored or authorized by the district or school that is designated for the biological sex opposite to the student’s biological sex as correctly stated on: (1) the student’s official birth certificate, as described by Subsection (c)
And Subsection (c) reads:
“For purposes of this section, a statement of a student’s biological sex on the student’s official birth certificate is considered to have correctly stated the student’s biological sex only if the statement was: (1) entered at or near the time of the student’s birth; or (2) modified to correct a clerical error in the student’s biological sex.
In other words, even if you’ve jumped through all the hoops and dealt with all the government agencies to obtain affirming documentation that corrects gender, (a lengthy, frustrating, and expensive process for many) you’re out of luck. They want the birth certificate that they know isn’t reflective of your reality. They successfully codified discrimination.
Our family has been bracing ourselves for notification from our son’s high school as it went into effect on January 18, but we also hoped that, with his updated documentation on file, maybe he’d get lucky. Maybe nothing would come of it. My husband and I sure as hell weren’t going to draw attention to the situation by asking, “So what does that mean for our son?”
We told him about the upcoming meeting, wanting to give him time to consider what he was and was not willing to do going forward. Yesterday, he worked up the guts to approach his coach during school, opting against waiting until next week to hear the news that we all figured was coming.
His coach teared up as she told him he’s been cut from the boy’s tennis team. The only way he’ll be allowed to compete is as a female. Playing mixed doubles, which is the only option available to him at present that is anywhere near tolerable, means that every single match, when he and his partner take to the court, he will be outed as they have to explain why there are two boys on this mixed doubles team. Every. Single. Match.
It’s not hard to imagine that scenario becoming painful for him, or even dangerous. It’s not what my son wants. It’s not what the other players on his team want. It’s not what the coaching staff wants. It’s not what UIL (the organization that oversees high school sports in Texas) wants. When UIL representation was questioned by the committee overseeing this bill, they testified that it was unnecessary, that there have been exactly zero cases of a trans high school athlete “taking” a competitive spot from another student in Texas, which was the reasoning argued by legislators supporting HB25. Instead of focusing on issues that DO exist, they chose to spend countless hours debating and promoting legislation to address a fictional problem.
The attack on trans youth in the 2021 legislative session across the country was mind bogglingly intense. While Texas legislators managed to get their sports ban passed, there were other, more horrifying pieces of legislation that failed. Bills banning, and/or criminalizing, affirming healthcare for trans minors would have meant that our son’s medical team, as well as his father and I, would face felony charges for child abuse. For a while, I was legitimately worrying about whether or not I’d be forced to flee the state of Texas with my children and considered preemptively talking to an attorney just to be clear about exactly what my rights would be. I know other parents of trans youth who were preparing go bags and gathering necessary documents, just in case. I cannot adequately convey to you the weight that bracing yourself and your family for that kind of scenario places on a person’s mind and spirit. I have no doubt that all of this directly contributed to my own depressive low last fall. The overwhelming psychological burden it has placed on my son has been very real.
He is a child. Trying to play a game. Or at least he was. Today he is a child, buried under the weight of institutional prejudice and discrimination, who hasn’t been able to get out of bed even though it’s mid-afternoon on a school day. He is a child who already battles dysphoria, depression, and anxiety daily, who benefited tremendously from being part of a team and the actual act of physically exerting himself daily. Today he is a child who will have an emergency therapy appointment outside of his regularly scheduled visits to help him process the pain he’s now feeling. Transgender youth are disproportionately at risk for suicide and suicidal ideation.
We are incredibly fortunate that, even with the aforementioned depression and anxiety, he’s been a stable kid. He’s got a great counselor, he talks it out when he’s processing things, and we’re vigilant about monitoring his mental health. But today, I am standing here now, watching his risk level rising. And it is terrifying. I feel completely powerless here. And it makes me violently angry. Because even if those who voted “yea” on HB25 could see what I’m seeing now, I know that they still wouldn’t care. I contacted my local representative, who co-authored one of these bills, on more than one occasion last year offering to discuss the realities of parenting a transgender child. No one from his office ever reached out. They do. not. Care.
I know parents and educators care. I know my family and friends care. You care. I need to believe you care. As a mother, I ask you to stay aware of your state legislatures and work with me to keep our trans children safe from legislators.
If you are in Texas, you can reach the governor’s office by clicking here and then the “I Want to Share My Opinion” button. Utah is currently seeking to form a commission that would set physical guidelines in an effort to curtail trans kids from competing in the sports that help keep them physically and mentally healthy (read here). Regardless of where you live, please make time to discover if your state has or plans to codify discrimination against minor, at-risk athletes and ensure they hear your objections.
Aubrey and her husband are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They reside in Texas with their four sons and Tuna and Pickles, the family’s two cats. Her hobbies are reading and sleeping.
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8 Replies to “Can You Care about My Trans Son Now that He’s Denied His Spot on the Team that’s Been His Lifeline?”
As an LDS trans tennis player myself, I really feel this deeply. Tennis is part of my lifeline as well. I grew up in Texas. Lubbock. I never had hope of transitioning as a child. Is your son involved in USTA youth tennis? I don’t think that’s affected by these new rules. I’m praying that your son finds the affirming place to enjoy his sport.
I am so sorry your son is going through this. As a mom of an adult non-binary / trans child, I know how devastating this type of discrimination can be.
Im so sad to see this. In my opinion it all started with the election of Donald Trump as he spewed his hatred towards those of us who are transgender. Then those who kiss his ring have pushed it to the extreme. Unfortunately my experience with the 1st Presidency of the Mormon church when I came out was very similar. I had to leave the church because of how I was treated (they refused to change my name on the records though it was changed legally, I was not allowed to have any callings including doing the bulletin, I couldn’t attend any RS or priesthood meetings or functions, I couldn’t used the restroom corresponding to my gender, etc). I honestly can’t see how anyone, particularly those with a transgender family member can stay in the church. Doing so tells many of us that you support the discrimination from the church. My leaving the church as I came out was so emotionally draining. Until the church is really ready to follow the teachings of Christ and reach out to those who are downtrodden as exemplified so many times by Christ, I refuse to have anything to do with it.
Too many institutional Christians have unwittingly created God’s nature in their own fallible and often-enough angry, vengeful image — especially the part insisting via publicized protest pickets that God hates this or that group of people. Often being the most vocal, they make very bad examples of Christ’s fundamental message, especially to the young and impressionable.
Personally, I believe Jesus was/is intended in large part to show humankind what a compassionate, caring and charitable Messiah ought to and needs to be; to prove to people that there really was/is hope for the many — especially for young people living in today’s physical, mental and spiritual turmoil — perceiving hopelessness in an otherwise fire-and-brimstone angry-God-condemnation creator. Thus, I can see many such ‘Christians’ even finding inconvenient, if not bothersome, trying to reconcile the conspicuous inconsistency in the fundamental nature of the New Testament’s Jesus with the wrathful, vengeful and even jealous nature of the Old Testament’s Creator.
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Utah has had a hard time with the bill because they want to let these kids play, but it makes it hard when they might have physical advantages. I don’t think this would apply to you and your child for tennis so much. But for my daughter who has worked hard in her sport, only to be defeated by a trans girl, does seem unfair. In group sports like soccer or volleyball I don’t think this would make a difference, but in swim, track and field, x country, etc, when she is defeated with someone who still has a biological boys’ body, it’s hard. Girls fought so hard for title 9. But I think there’s a healthy compromise that lets these kids play, maybe even if they can’t compete on an individual level.
One thing is for sure though–these kids need a group/team/extracurricular activity where they can have friends and be safe and included.
There’s no such thing as a healthy compromise where this is concerned. Girls, both trans and cis, should play on the girls teams. Boys, both trans and cis, should play on the boys teams.
I don’t know why anyone assumes that anytime a transgender girl competes that she will have an automatic advantage. I take that back. I do know why, but it has nothing to do with facts. Has your daughter competed against a transgender athlete or is this just some hypothetical situation you have imagined in your own interest with respect to your daughter? Have you asked your daughter’s opinion about this? I’d love to hear it.
My understanding is that there are no transgender athletes currently competing in Utah high school athletics. That’s the last report I read. It’s not even an issue that needs to be addressed. If there are, we certainly haven’t heard of any records being shattered.
What other criteria do you wish to apply to make sure that your daughter isn’t defeated by someone. What height, weight, body mass, wingspan, hip-to-knee ratio, and other limits are you going to impose? When a cisgender girl exceeds those limits, what outcry are you going to have about unfairness?
When a transgender boy is forced to play on a girl’s team because of the gender specified on their birth certificate, what will be your response? The demand is that he play on the girls teams. Will you be silent then? Every once in awhile we see reports of young women who want to play something like football and find their way onto the boys teams. Those young women get praised for their accomplishments. All of that will be taken away.
These are children trying to live their lives as who they are and then also trying to engage in the sport that they probably love. I can assure you that no athlete is transitioning to gain some unfair advantage. They are literally transitioning to save their lives and some of them may find a sport that they love.
These kids need to be safe and loved. Othering them by putting them in special groups or special competitions will do nothing to achieve that.
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I happened upon a study (titled ‘The Science of Early Childhood Development’, 2007) that formally discovered what should have been the obvious. The following quoted text was taken from the study’s 13-page report:
“The future of any society depends on its ability to foster the health and well-being of the next generation. Stated simply, today’s children will become tomorrow’s citizens, workers, and parents. When we invest wisely in children and families, the next generation will pay that back through a lifetime of productivity and responsible citizenship. When we fail to provide children with what they need to build a strong foundation for healthy and productive lives, we put our future prosperity and security at risk. …”
Due to the Only If It’s In My Own Back Yard mindset, the prevailing collective attitude, however implicit or subconscious, basically follows: ‘Why should I care — my kids are alright?’ or ‘What is in it for me, the taxpayer, if I support programs for other people’s troubled families?’ While some people will justify it as a normal thus moral human evolutionary function, the self-serving OIIIMOBY can debilitate social progress, even when social progress is most needed. And it seems this distinct form of societal penny wisdom but pound foolishness is a very unfortunate human characteristic that’s likely with us to stay. …
The health of all children — and not just what other parents’ children might or will cost us as future criminals or costly cases of government care, etcetera — needs to be of real importance to us all, regardless of how well our own developing children are doing. A physically and mentally sound future should be every child’s fundamental right — along with air, water, food and shelter — especially considering the very troubled world into which they never asked to enter. Mindlessly minding our own business on such matters has too often proven humanly devastating.