Transgender kids are just kids

Last week, I testified before the Texas House of Representatives Public Education Committee during the second special legislative session on SB2, the latest iteration of the anti-transgender sports bill. My kiddo Indigo and I waited over 17 hours to have our say about why transgender children should be allowed to play on sports teams that align with their gender identity.  

Once again, the silver lining to the copious transphobic rhetoric present that day was the camaraderie of folks against this bill. So many random moments of joy – free Taco Deli in Rep. Jasmine Crockett’s office, cake to celebrate Marsha P. Johnson’s birthday, a hilarious extended conversation about farts, discovery of the secret vending machines, cheering and booing at the hearing livestream, and the heart-to-heart conversations with my fellow testifiers.

When I finally gave my testimony at 2:10 a.m., my exhausted body felt like it was walking through water on my way to the podium. Somehow all the words on my written script came out of my mouth. Rep. Diego Bernal (an ally) took the opportunity to use my testimony as a springboard to make the connection between the proposed action from this bill – kicking kids off sports teams – to the state’s bullying statute. Thank goodness he asked me softball questions ending with “Do you agree?” so he could make his points. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have been able to form coherent sentences.

It was painfully obvious that this bill (and this issue) is not about fair play in sports. Not one supporter of this bill could give an example of a Texan transgender youth athlete taking a team spot or a scholarship away from a cisgender girl. The author of the bill, the people who gave invited testimony, and the public witnesses in support of this bill all used terms that were incorrect and derogatory to refer to transgender people. Additionally, they:

  • called parents child abusers
  • said “these children” were just confused
  • implied trans people were genetically modified (like apples??!!)
  • suggested separate but equal teams
  • misgendered other witnesses
  • said boys were pretending to be girls so they could cheat
  • called upon God to judge the legislators
  • pitted cisgender girls against transgender girls
  • said transgender children are committing suicide not because of discrimination but because they know there’s something wrong with them
  • and so much more.

One supporter of the bill inexplicably referred to me twice in her own testimony, declared that I had two sons playing as girls in Houston ISD, and implied that I was defying UIL rules. Lots to unpack in those assertions, and none of them are true (see my carefully worded testimony below).

The crux of the matter is that supporters of bills that target transgender people simply do not believe that transgender women are women and that transgender men are men. They believe that there are only two genders that are fixed at birth, with no room for questioning, development, or discovery.

I used to think that way. But I believed my children, made my education a priority, and expanded my world. I see my own journey as a never-ending quest for understanding and compassion that moves well beyond acceptance into celebration and embrace.

One of the definitions of embrace is “to take or clasp in the arms; press to the bosom; hug.” Fitting, as a friend requested a designated hugger for that day, and I volunteered. I have no delusions that I needed to protect her. She’s strong in heart and spirit and capable of defending herself. Maybe it’s just comforting to know that there are lots of people who are on your side when you and your community are being attacked. I was honored and humbled to be one of those people that day.

People are who they say they are. Transgender women ARE women, period. Transgender men ARE men, period. Non-binary people are people whose gender is beyond male or female, period. Transgender kids are just kids. All are worthy of love, respect, and belonging, and that includes equal rights and opportunities.

There is no evidence that trans-inclusive policies would do any harm to cisgender youth. All these bills do is build a culture of bias by using transgender children as political pawns and cause unnecessary harm to the health and wellbeing of trans youth and the transgender community at large. These attacks need to stop. As of August 29, the bill is still pending in committee. Please contact the Texas House Public Education Committee using this easy form from Equality Texas and urge them to vote no on SB2.

My testimony:

My name is Mandy Giles, and I’m representing myself and the Houston chapter of PFLAG to oppose Senate Bill 2. I’m also the mother of 3 children, 2 of whom are transgender.

By excluding transgender kids from playing team sports, this bill harms trans youth by singling them out for harassment and humiliation. This bill would also potentially out transgender kids to their classmates without their consent, which would be traumatizing for them.

Two of my children were on a sports team in Houston ISD. Being on this team taught them discipline, hard work, leadership, and a sense of belonging.  They loved their coach and teammates and would have been devastated if they were told that they couldn’t participate just because of who they are.

Transgender kids just want the freedom and the opportunity to participate in team sports like everyone else. But this bill will make them feel more excluded than ever.

Every time a bill is introduced to exclude transgender Texans from some aspect of daily life – whether it’s a bathroom or a children’s sports team – the undeniable message sent is that it’s acceptable to debate the humanity and dignity of transgender people.

No one should have their very existence called into question.

This relentless attack on transgender youth tells my kids that they are not worthy of protecting. The cruel language used in these debates over and over tells my kids that they will have to fight to prove their value in this world. Today’s committee hearing tells my kids that they will have to continually beg for their safety and privacy.

Well, I am done begging. I insist that transgender children have the same rights and opportunities as any other kids, and that includes playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity. They’re just kids. They just want to play.

Vote no to Senate Bill 2. Thank you.

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