The Ohio Statehouse | Image courtesy of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board
With the introduction of Senate Bill 132, Ohio is looking to join more than 20 states halting transgender participation in sports throughout K-12 and collegiate settings.
Introduced by Ohio state Sen. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, the bill seeks to halt transgender athletes from participating in sports teams associated with their gender identity.
Currently, the Ohio High School Athletics Association (OHSAA) requires transgender women to complete at least one year of hormone treatment before participating in a women’s sport or seek special permission from the executive director’s office after demonstrating she doesn’t possess any physical or physiological advantages over those athletes born as women.
Wright State involvement
Wright State University’s (WSU) intercultural specialist of the LGBTQA Center, Emily Yantis-Houser, said that The LGBTQA+ community across Ohio is working to oppose this legislation.
Citizens from Cleveland to Columbus to Dayton (and beyond) are all a part of this coalition. They collect testimonies and stories of others to bring to the table to support trans-athletes and oppose this bill.
“I am a member of a statewide LGBTQ Youth Advocacy Coalition with Equality Ohio, and I have been working with that group, along with some WSU students, to strategize in opposition of the bill. The group is focused on meeting with legislators, providing education to the public regarding the issue, and collecting stories in support of trans-athletes across the state,” Yantis-Houser said.
While Roegner and supporters of Senate Bill 132 cite inclusivity for women as a driving point behind Senate Bill 132, Yantis-Houser said that it’s typical for trans-exclusion to be hidden behind an “inclusivity for women” agenda.
“We as a society hold the belief that there are certain characteristics, especially bodily ones, that distinguish men and women, but that is not true. Language like this perpetuates the incredibly harmful message that trans women are just ‘men in dresses,’ and it reduces human beings to body parts,” Yantis-Houser said.
Supporters of legislation blocking trans participation in athletics often argue that trans women, because they were born male, are stronger and faster than their peers who were born female.
Yantis-Houser disagrees with this assessment and said that there are diminishing amounts of evidence supporting such claims as time passes.
“These bills perpetuate the belief that women are less than men, physically and otherwise, and that they need to be protected. Again, harmful or hateful language or action is typically hidden behind the ideas of safety and protection when it has more to do with power and the discomfort of the privileged,” Yantis-Houser said.
WSU president of Beta Phi Omega and director of diversity and inclusion for the Fraternity and Sorority Council Nat Williams said that this bill acts as further proof that legislators are misinformed about trans athletes.
“They [legislators] believe that trans women are just trying to infiltrate women’s sports to win competitions, and this is simply not true,” Williams said.
Regarding the bill’s premise of inclusivity for women, Williams argues that the bill acts on the contrary.
“It’s completely ridiculous that ‘inclusivity’ is being used to back this bill,” Williams said. “There are similarities between this bill and things that legislators have been perpetuating against the LGBTQA community for years. From our rights in bathrooms to sports … to say this is anything other than bigotry is absolutely wrong.”
While Yantis-Houser and Williams believe that Ohio Senate Bill 132 opposes inclusivity, the two said that WSU goes above and beyond to create an inclusive environment for all students.
“We provide a plethora of resources and support to our trans students, including gender-inclusive housing, all-gender restrooms across campus, legal name change services with Student Legal Services, name and pronoun change with RaiderConnect that also translates to classroom technologies (Pilot, etc.),” Yantis-Houser said.
Williams noted the difficulty of coming out to those in the public and the feeling of being seen as a target.
“Emily was one of the first people I came out to as non-binary, and it wasn’t easy. You look at the news, and you’re at the center of a national conversation against your own will,” Williams said. “I’ve known who I am my whole life; I’m just me.”
A second student at WSU who opposes Senate Bill 132 but wishes to remain anonymous said that legislators should spend more time researching the facts between men’s and women’s athletics before banning people from participating.
“I haven’t seen much research that says that trans women are out here dominating women’s sports, so it’s kind of crazy to think that they are just banned from competing altogether. If I was trans and wanted to compete, I couldn’t imagine how frustrating it would be to see people working against me. It’s not very fair at all, considering these people are just trying to do what makes them happy,” the student said.