Proposed bills in Texas legislature could restrict transgender rights

Samantha Greyson

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 23 issue of The Daily Texan.

The Texas House of Representatives is considering two bills that would require college athletes to play sports exclusively with members of their same assigned sex at birth, restricting transgender athletes from competing as their gender identity. 

The NCAA released a statement on April 12 saying it would only hold championship games in locations that did not discriminate against transgender athletes, but student activists say these legislative attempts are still discouraging and dangerous to the LGBTQ+ community. 

HB 1458, authored by Rep. Valoree Swanson (R-Spring), would require higher education interscholastic, intramural or extracurricular athletic teams to designate participation based on assigned sex at birth. Teams would have to specifically limit participation to only one assigned sex at birth, or they could opt for both sexes competing on the same team.

Adrienne Hunter, a radio-television-film, anthropology and women and gender studies senior, said these bills are dangerous because they invalidate the genders of trans athletes and students. 

“It affects the prospects of trans athletes being able to participate as themselves,” said Hunter, the co-director of UT’s Queer and Trans Student Alliance. “It sets a precedent for being able to have, essentially, legal reason to invalidate the identity of trans folks, which is very dangerous for obvious reasons.”

Swanson’s bill is currently pending in committee. 

HB 4043, authored by Rep. Cole Hefner (R-Mount Pleasant), would require state university systems to release a report to the Governor and House of Representatives on the separation of interscholastic sports based on assigned sex at birth.

The bills could prevent prospective trans athletes from participating in sports at the University in the future, Hunter said.

“UT itself is already a campus that struggles to be inclusive to trans folks. There’s a lack of gender-inclusive housing, and there’s not many gender-neutral restrooms,” Hunter said. “(The bills) will basically make UT itself a space where trans athletes are not able to express themselves.”

Isaac James, a government and Plan II junior, works with the LGBTQ+ caucus in the Texas House to fight bills like these from being passed. 

“It’s just super discouraging that Texas and the Texas legislature are conforming to this pattern happening across the country where state legislatures are just targeting transgender youth across the board,” James said. 

Hefner and Swanson did not respond to requests for comment. According to the Houston Chronicle, Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston), the Public Education Committee chair who presided over debate on Hefner’s bill, said the bill likely would not have enough votes to make it out of committee. 

Another bill in the senate, SB 1646, would redefine child abuse to include supplying children under 18 with hormone medication, or consenting to sex reassignment surgeries, for the purpose of transitioning.

“Trans folks are more visible right now than a lot of people ever realized. With a lot of this visibility, there’s also a lot of, unfortunately, backlash,”  Hunter said. “America fosters a sense of ideals that unfortunately conflicts with the existence of a lot of trans folks.”