(SS) I am the proud mom of a female scholar-athlete. She loves the camaraderie, the competition and the cadence that sports bring to her life.
I love watching her change and grow as a person through every season, in every sport. I know sports have helped her succeed through school, and she will be a stronger woman because of the athletic experiences she has had.
A bill is currently being fast-tracked through the Florida Legislature that is, in my opinion, politicizing an issue that for the last decade has been a nonissue.
I have seen comments on social media and I have heard the conversations in the bleachers at sporting events, “This is unfair to female athletes. A male can enter female sports teams by saying they identify as a female and take away opportunities for girls.” Simply put, it doesn’t work that way.
As a former Broward County School Board member, I remember the arguments we heard against a policy allowing students to use the restroom that aligned with their sexual identity. Comments similar in nature, about all the horrible outcomes, were bandied about as reasons why we should not support LGBT students — comments that were not at all based in reality.
On Tuesday, April 6, House Bill 1475 is scheduled to be heard by the House Education and Employment Committee. The proposed law relies on baseless arguments to scare people into thinking that allowing transgender females to participate in the sport of the gender with which they identify will create huge inequities for female athletes. Check the decade-long record. It hasn’t happened.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association has had gender identity participation in place since 2011. The Florida High School Athletics Association has allowed transgender students to participate in the sport of the gender with which they identify since 2013. The sponsors of this bill have stated there has not been a single formal complaint regarding transgender participation in sports. The fears of females losing spots on the team roster or scholarship opportunities, simply have not been an issue for more than 10 years now. Why focus on a nonissue? Why create legislation that could do more harm than good?
While there is no evidence of this bill’s necessity, there is plenty of evidence that our LGBT youth are suffering, with higher levels of depression, higher incidents of drug and alcohol use and a higher likelihood of suicidal ideations and/or death by suicide. The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey is used by governmental entities and community support organizations to focus on areas of concern. Although transgender youth data is not expressly reported, the LGB data should make anyone pay attention.
According to Broward County data on the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey:
- 54.3% of LGB youth felt sad or hopeless every day for a two-week period (20% more likely than their heterosexual peers);
- 43.6% of LGB youth seriously considered attempting suicide; and
- One in three LGB youth made a plan about how they would attempt suicide.
The reality of those statistics should be driving the conversation toward inclusion and support rather than exclusion and division, and the positive impact sports have on young people should be part of that. Being a teenager is hard enough when the cards aren’t stacked against you. As adults, we should do everything we can to promote inclusion and create safe environments for children.
Being an athlete has helped my daughter succeed in school, and she is a stronger woman because she is an athlete. I don’t want similar opportunities to be denied to transgender girls and women because of fear and prejudice. Let’s do a better job of educating people about the realities. Let’s send a message of inclusion. I know what I want for my daughter, and I want to make sure other daughters have the same opportunities.
As a parent, I love my children unconditionally and I want the best for them. As an active member of our community, I support what is best for our community’s children. I support all children, with a focus in this conversation on students who might otherwise be ostracized or marginalized. All kids, including trans kids, deserve the right to love the camaraderie, the competition and the cadence of participating in sports. As the mom of a female athlete, I implore our Legislature to stop the fearmongering. As the mom of a female athlete, I invite lawmakers to consider what is best for all children. As the mom of a female athlete, I ask them to vote down this bill and not allow it to move forward.
Heather Brinkworth served on the Broward County School Board 2014-2020.