State senate passes bill to exclude transgender females from competing in athletics

SB2153 was amended to expand to collegiate athletics and intramurals

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – The state senate is making things harder for transgender females to participate in college athletics. Two bills were passed yesterday, specifically because of a transgender swimmer’s win just a couple weeks ago.

Lia Thomas’s historic win in the 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA Swimming Championships in Atlanta a couple weeks ago set off a firestorm of controversy. Thomas is a transgender female, or a man that associates his gender identity as that of a woman.

Tennessee’s state senate saw Thomas’ win and wants to ensure a level playing field for biological women in athletics with the passage of two bills designed to exclude transgender women from competing.

People all over the country, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, felt betrayed by the NCAA to allow a biological male in Lia Thomas to compete with biological women. DeSantis said the NCAA was – quote – destroying opportunities for women and perpetuating a fraud by allowing transgender women to compete in women’s athletics.

That’s something State Senator Joey Hensley agrees with, and that’s why Senate Bill 2153 needed a college amendment.

“So, Lia Thomas, I mean…she won the NCAA Championship. Or he…it’s hard to know what to call people sometimes, but somebody that competed as a man just two years ago and then, all of a sudden, competing against women, obviously has an advantage so that had some bearing on the bill.”

Hensley points to Thomas’ size and strength having been born a male as being beneficial to her prowess in the water with biological females.

In the 2018-19 season, Thomas competed as a male. In the 200-yard freestyle, Thomas was ranked 554th, and 32nd in the 1650-free. As a female, Thomas is now fifth and eighth. Hensley says women shouldn’t have to compete with a deck stacked against them.

Hensley: “I don’t know why a woman would want to compete against men. Certainly there may be that incident, rare incident where a woman naturally could beat some men, but, generally, the best woman is not going to beat the best man.”

“It’s not just about sports, right? This points to the ways that sport is being used as a wedge and as a place where people’s anxiety and fear can be easily stoked about something that only the person shouting ‘Fire!’ has a worry about,” says Dahron Johnson of the Tennessee Equality Project, and a trans athlete herself. She understands Thomas wasn’t the big winner everyone thinks. Thomas competed in two other events at the NCAA Championships. She came in fifth in one, and dead last in the other.

Johnson: “On any given moment, at any given start line, that a person’s unique and individual strengths and the places they’re not as great could allow them to have a moment of glory or it may be the stuff that gets them out the back of the pack.”

The bill isn’t just for college athletics. It also includes the provision for intramural teams as well.

As long as Governor Bill Lee signs the measure, it would officially go into effect for the 2022-23 school year.

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