Tennessee Might Block Trans Student Athletes From Competing in Sports

If a new bill becomes law, administrators could be fined $10,000 for allowing trans students to participate in sports as their lived genders.

Transgender youth are currently caught in the crosshairs of a bitter civil rights debate brewing in Tennessee. The state’s legislature will consider barring transgender students from competitive sports when lawmakers return to session next week.

Republican Rep. Bruce Griffey (Paris) is pushing a bill that would fine administrators statewide up to $10,000 for allowing trans students to participate in sports as their lived gender. Under House Bill 1572, all students must compete as the sex they were assigned at birth.

The bill, introduced in December, has been met with condemnation from high-profile transgender advocates and athletes—including trans triathlete and Team USA member Chris Mosier, who blasted HB 1572 on his Twitter.

The bill comes less than a year after a string of anti-LGBTQ bills dubbed the “slate of hate” were introduced in the state. Those bills drew sharp criticism from LGBTQ advocates and major corporations like Lyft, Marriott, and IKEA.

However, HB 1572 also comes as schools across the nation increasingly debate transgender student participation in traditionally binary sports. In 2017, Texas student wrestler Mack Beggs made national headlines after officials forced him to compete as female after his transition.

In Connecticut, transgender runners Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller have faced intense backlash and are even the subjects of a lawsuit because their school allows them to compete with other women. Despite the fact that Yearwood and Miller live in Connecticut, their images have been splashed across stories about the Tennessee bill.

Beggs, Yearwood, and Miller are all featured in Changing the Game, a 2019 documentary that explores the obstacles facing trans student athletes. Producer Alex Schmider argues that scrutiny on trans athletes is only applied when they are winning.

"The conversation about trans athletes participating in sports is reaching a cultural boiling point but has largely left out the people impacted by the proposed policies and bills attempting to exclude them,” Schmider tells NewNowNext. “We made the film Changing the Game to give Texas wrestler Mack Beggs, New Hampshire skier Sarah Rose Huckman, and Connecticut track runners Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller a platform to tell their stories, share their real-life experiences, and actually give people the opportunity to get know them: kids just trying to be who they are and play the sports they love.”

The Tennessee legislature is due back in session on January 14.

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