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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