While similar bills filed in previous legislative sessions have approached the issue of trans athletes more obliquely, Perry’s tackles it head-on. The legislation would bar student athletes from taking the field with players of the opposite sex.
“Except as provided by Subsection (b), an interscholastic athletic team sponsored or authorized by a school district or open-enrollment charter school may not allow a student to participate in an interscholastic athletic activity sponsored or authorized by the district or school that is designated for the biological sex opposite to the student’s biological sex as assigned at the student’s birth and correctly stated on the student’s official birth certificate,” the bill reads.
Perry makes an exception for female students to take part in sports typically meant for males if there is no corresponding women’s version, such as football.
The University Interscholastic League (UIL), which governs most of the state’s school competitions, already has a rule in place to keep male and female athletes from competing with each other. The UIL Constitution defers to the birth certificate to define gender and makes no distinction between gender and sex.
“Gender shall be determined based on a student’s birth certificate. In cases where a student’s birth certificate is unavailable, other similar government documents used for the purpose of identification may be substituted,” it reads.
Though the UIL was founded as a private association, Texas now classifies it as a state agency. It governs mostly public schools. Since Perry’s bill only applies to school districts and open-enrollment charter schools, it would wield no power over the rules of private interscholastic competitive groups like TAPPS.
In the 2017 legislative session, Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) introduced a bill that would have effectively barred transgender athletes that take testosterone from competing in school sports. More broadly, the legislation would have let the UIL declare students who use medically approved steroids “ineligible for competition if UIL determined that the safety or fairness of an event would be affected.” LGBT organizations drew the connection between Hall’s bill and the potential ramifications for trans students.
Though the bill ultimately died in committee, the Texas Senate passed it amid the rising prominence of Mack Beggs, a biologically female wrestler who identified as male and took testosterone, winning state-level competitions. The UIL defended its choice to keep male and female athletes in separate competitions.
Perry has spoken more openly on the intent of his legislation.
“By formalizing this in statute, it will help protect the integrity of Texas sports and promote safety among competitors for years to come,” he stated.
“Female athletes deserve their place in the record books for all of their hard work and dedication. In addition, allowing biological males to play in female UIL competitions undermines the progress made for female athletes under the federal Title IX law.”
On the day of his inauguration, President Joe Biden issued a number of executive orders, one of which nodded to transgender athletes.
“Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love,” the order reads.
“Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”