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Abbott signs bill restricting trans kids’ participation in school sports

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Update 12:20 p.m., Oct. 26: This story has been updated with further comment from El Paso Independent School District.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott quietly signed legislation on Monday that bans transgender children from participating in school sports on teams that align with their gender identity.

The measure, House Bill 25, came as part of a barrage of anti-trans legislation filed this year: more than 50 anti-trans bills were introduced during the 87th Texas Legislature in both the regular and special sessions. It’s made 2021 a record-setting year for legislation targeting transgender Americans nationally.

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HB 25 passed in the House after significant efforts by El Paso lawmakers to kill the bill, who spoke passionately in opposition to the measure.

“The premise of the bill is harmful,” state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, said in an interview Oct. 16 after HB 25 passed the Texas House. “This is just a culture war piece of legislation. And that’s sad, it’s sad because ultimately it’s going to harm a population … (of) kids that are already mercilessly bullied, and will feed into that.”

Republican lawmakers have said the measure is necessary to protect cisgender girls, meaning girls whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth, from having to compete in sports against transgender girls, who they say have an unfair biological advantage.

Moody said Republican lawmakers were unable to cite a single example in the state of cisgender girls being harmed by competing against a trans student during multiple hearings about HB 25 and other similar legislation.

Though Abbott regularly holds bill-signing ceremonies for other controversial measures popular with his base, he made no public announcement to coincide with the signing of HB 25 and did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the legislation.

In El Paso, it is unclear how school districts will respond to or enforce the new measure.

The El Paso Independent School District has a non-discrimination clause that was updated in 2018 to include prohibiting discrimination on the basis of “gender stereotyping and perceived sexuality.”

The El Paso Independent School District has a non-discrimination clause that was updated in 2018 to include prohibiting discrimination on the basis of “gender stereotyping and perceived sexuality.” 

EPISD  spokesperson Gustavo Reveles said that the district will continue to follow Texas University Interscholastic League policies, which mandate “gender shall be determined based on a student’s birth certificate.” 

HB 25 goes beyond existing UIL guidelines, to clarify that schools must use the sex assigned on the birth certificate at or near the time of birth to determine participation on school sports teams — ruling out transgender students who have had the sex on their birth certificate changed. But Reveles did not clarify whether the district will enforce that. 

Moody said the most significant impact of the measure will be dire mental health implications for trans kids in Texas.

“We’re going to have more kids that will have suicidal ideation or commit suicide,” he said.

Proposed anti-trans laws in Texas have already fueled a 150% spike in mental health crisis contacts this year from young LGBTQ+ Texans, according to the Trevor Project, an organization that offers suicide prevention resources and crisis intervention for LGBTQ+ young people.

Moody said he hopes trans El Pasoans know that he and other lawmakers will continue to advocate for equality.

“At times it just seems like this system is just out to crush people,” he said. “And I think they need to know that there are people that will continue to fight for them.”

Help is available

The TrevorLifeline offers 24/7 confidential crisis support, suicide prevention training and other resources at 866-488-7386.

Cover photo: Demonstrators gathered outside the Texas Capitol on Oct. 13 in opposition to House Bill 25. (Photo by Sarah Labowitz, courtesy the American Civil Liberties Union)

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René Kladzyk

René Kladzyk is a musician and writer based in El Paso. She performs original music as Ziemba, and has written for publications including Teen Vogue, i-D, and The Creative Independent. Her new album came out on Sister Polygon Records in September 2020, and she is hopeful that we’ll be able to enjoy live music together IRL again soon enough.

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