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  • Kye Campbell-Fox

New Article Coming Soon: A Legislative Analysis of Texas' Hearing on Banning Trans Youth from Sports

In late 2021, the Texas House held a public hearing on HB 25, a bill designed to prevent transgender and gender diverse (TGD) public school children from playing sports on teams that align with their affirmed gender. The hearing was recorded and lasted for more than 10 hours because so many people testified on the bill. These individuals included both opponents and proponents of the bill and came from all walks of life: children, adults, students, educators, nonprofit representatives, parents, clergy, (former) athletes, and more. The Texas House representatives present in the hearing also had comments and questions that were part of the hearing and thus part of our analysis. 

At the heading, opponents and proponents of the bill offered a variety of arguments to defend their position and to try and persuade the House Reps over to their side. Many of the transgender individuals and their family members who testified also discussed how they and their families had been impacted by the introduction of anti-trans legislation throughout 2021. 

Trans-ilience Lab member Terra Dunn wanted to study anti-trans rhetoric and legislation that targets sports participation in particular. After learning about this bill, she conceptualized this project wherein we analyzed this public testimony to understand more about the arguments and rhetoric used in these types of hearings and the impact on TGD people. As a lab that studies minority stress, we were naturally interested in studying how systemic stressors, like anti-trans laws, affected people. Beyond the impact of the law itself, many people testified about the impact that just proposing and hearing comments on anti-trans legislation had on them and their families. To investigate this, we used thematic analysis (see Braun & Clarke 2022) to describe the common themes in this data. We hope to publish a paper in the near future with more of an overview of the findings, but here is a preview to what we found.  

Across the 10 hours of testimony, people made a lot of interesting comments and took a variety of rhetorical approaches. Our four main themes from those comments are as follows:

  1. The political smoke screen: Vilifying TGD people and rewriting narratives about cisgender girls and women 

Those in favor of the bill (and therefore in favor of preventing trans kids from playing sports on teams where they’d be comfortable) presented an image of cisgender women as weak and in need of protection from transgender women, who they chose to portray as scary, threatening, and masculine. This fear mongering relied on harmful stereotyping of both transgender and cisgender women and reinforces a system of sexism that only benefits cisgender men and boys.

  1. Pleading from the perspectives of equity and justice

Those against the bill based their opposition on principles such as equity and justice and pleaded for fair treatment and inclusion of transgender children in sports. Many of these individuals had a transgender loved one, or were themselves trans, and used personal experiences alongside facts about the harms of these bills. 

  1. Appeals to power: Using money, reputation, and religion 

There were a wide variety of approaches used by speakers in the hearing, but one thread through many of those approaches was the use of power to try and gain authority as a speaker in the hearing. Plenty of speakers did have some kind of authority (personal and professional), while others tried to claim authority they did not have and were rebuked. 

  1. Provable harm: Anti-TGD legislation leads to documented harms 

One of the House reps present in the hearing, Rep. Johnson, asked most of the parents who testified how their families were being impacted by anti-trans legislation in Texas. Some individuals also volunteered this information without being asked. There was a great deal of harm reported by the trans people and their families who testified against the bill, from increased stigma, threats, and physical violence to internal struggles with mental health and suicidality.

Using these themes to guide our discussion, we explored the experiences, feelings, and opinions expressed during the hearing and how they fit into the larger political narrative in Texas and with the anti-trans legislative pushes across the U.S. 

The most recent iteration of the anti-trans legislative campaign began with so-called bathroom bills in the mid 2010’s, with sports as a recent flashpoint for anti-trans rhetoric and legislation. In this paper, we examine the arguments and approaches on both sides and consider how this testimony fits with prior research on similar topics. As we are a research team devoted to studying trans stress and resilience, we were particularly interested in seeing how people were impacted by discussion of the bill and considering this example of how legislation can impact stress and resilience. 

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