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Alabama bill aims to make students play sports based on sex at birth

Avery Heflin says, “Individual transgender students are already playing the sports of the gender that they identify with. They’ve already talked to the school a...

new bill has been proposed in Alabama that would stop students from playing sports based on the gender they identify with– and require them to play on teams based on their sex at birth. 

The proposed bill is called “GIRL”– or the (Gender is Real Legislation) Act. If passed, the bill determines which students are allowed to play sports on which teams. 

Local LGBTQ+ groups say, this bill could have a lasting impression on students– one that legislators might not have considered. 

Avery Heflin, a Board Member and worker of Youth Relations at GLSEN Greater Huntsville says, ” Knowing you have people who accept you and who want to be around you and hang out with you– that can be the difference between life and death for an LGBTQ student.” 

If passed, the Gender is Real Legislation Act or “GIRL” would prohibit athletes of one biological sex from competing against athletes of another. The bill particularly affects transgender students.

We met with Avery Heflin from GLSEN– an LGBTQ youth advocacy group here in Huntsville. Avery’s preferred pronouns are “they and them”. Avery says, “It sort of ‘others’ transgender students. It makes them feel out of place and it makes them feel very wrong in who they are.”

The bill has been proposed by Rep. Chris Pringle and makes it illegal for public K-12 schools to participate in, sponsor, or even provide coaching staff for events at which athletes compete against other athletes who were born with a different “biological gender.” The bill would not apply to athletic events at which both genders are allowed to compete.

In a news release, Rep. Pringle says, “There are biological differences between boys and girls that influence athletic performance. The GIRL Bill seeks to support female student athletes, so that they may compete against each other and not have to compete against male students with an unfair advantage.”

Similar bills have been passed in Georgia, Missouri, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Washington, and West Virginia

Avery Heflin tells us, “There’s a lot of fear going on about transgender students and transgender youth.” 

Under this new bill , student-athletes would have to play sports based on what is offered for the sex they were declared at birth. 

 This proposed bill doesn’t just affect which students can play on which teams– it also puts limitations on where they’d be able to play. The bill prohibits public athletic facilities from being used by Alabama K-12 public schools in competitions that don’t adhere to the bill’s policy.

Avery tells us this could have a devastating effect on student athletes who are transgender or gender non-conforming who would be forced to leave their teams if the new bill were to pass. They say, “Individual transgender students are already playing the sports of the gender that they identify with. They’ve already talked to the school administration and are called their right name and their right pronouns– and use the bathroom that they feel  most comfortable in.” 

They add, “I think, doing  this on a legislative level erases all of the progress of the individuals who have had these conversations with their school administration.” 

So far, for the 2020 legislative session, 19 bills have been filed in 11 different states which would limit the rights of trans people. 

The Alabama legislature goes into session February 4, and this bill is on the table. 

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