GOP targeting of transgender athletes in H.S. is disingenuous, cruel, and on-brand

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Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is at his disingenuous best when targeting trans kids.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is at his disingenuous best when targeting trans kids.
Image: Getty Images

When they’re not busy trying to keep people from being able to vote, Republican state legislators these days are obsessed with the issue of transgender athletes in high school sports. Not just state legislators, in fact, but at the federal level, too, as Kentucky’s somehow second-worst senator, Rand Paul, last week wasted time during assistant health secretary Rachel Levine’s confirmation hearing by labeling transition surgery as “genital mutilation.”

Reflexively, you can say “fuck Rand Paul.”

After that, you can also say, “this is culture war bullshit” that Republicans are using to play on fear and hate because they lost the marriage equality debate and there’s no going back on that.

And after another beat, you can think about how those who identify as transgender represent less than 1 percent of the population, and that the number of people being targeted here is even smaller because you’re just talking about people competing in sports, and smaller still because not every sport is even divided by gender. If a trans person wanted to go out for the high school football team, for instance, their gender wouldn’t make a whit of difference.

Still, it’s important to have a data point about how full of shit the GOP is here, and how purposely cruel they are being in targeting high school trans kids. That part is all the worse because high school is hard enough socially to begin with, before you even think about what it’s like to navigate that as a trans person. It takes a special kind of asshole to be like, “yeah, there should be laws that make things even harder for these kids.”

The Associated Press brought the data point on Wednesday and, unsurprisingly, found that there are almost no examples that the Republicans pushing legislation about gender identity in high school sports can cite as justification for their proposed persecution of kids who just want to play sports. Basically, it all comes back to a couple of high school girls who were sprinters in Connecticut a few years ago and won some races, which led some bigoted sore losers to sue.

There’s a throughline in all of this that can be seen from Fallon Fox’s ordeal in mixed-martial arts, being misgendered by Dana White and having Joe Rogan say, “You’re a fucking man. … I don’t care if you don’t have a dick anymore.” As if UFC is some great bastion of deciding what’s right, and there’s anything to that sport other than two people agreeing that they’re going to try to beat the shit out of each other. The only thing that any of these bigots are out to do is to invalidate trans people’s experience and existence, and it’s obvious from the difference in how they treat people whose trans experience is going female to male.

The AP story rightly mentioned the case of Mack Beggs, the Texas wrestler who was made to compete in the girls’ division in 2017 and 2018, even though he wanted to wrestle with the boys. Of course, there’s no great clamor from conservatives to let trans boys compete with boys, because that would mean acknowledging the rights of any trans kids, and that’s not the GOP’s game.

These are not serious people. Unfortunately, they do have serious power. Just because they’re full of shit doesn’t mean that they can be ignored, and just because these bills would affect the tiniest sliver of the population doesn’t mean that they aren’t a first step toward delegitimizing trans people’s existence entirely.

They must be stopped.

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