Advocates For Transgender Rights Oppose House Bill

Article reposted from Keloland News
January 15, 2015, 10:05 PM by Brady Mallory

SIOUX FALLS, SD -Advocates for transgender rights say a bill in the South Dakota legislature is a piece of discrimination. House Bill 1195 would void the South Dakota High School Activities Association’s transgender policy, which went into effect in June. On Tuesday, the measure has already passed through the House in a 51 to 16 vote.

Transgender means that your gender identity doesn’t match up with your biological sex. The current policy requires the High School Activities Association to review requests by transgender students or their guardians before deciding which team the student can participate on. The bill, however, would require students to play on the same team as the gender listed on their birth certificates.

21-year-old Kendra Heathscott is one of the individuals who testified against it while it was in a House committee. She remembers not being able to join girl’s volleyball team when she was in high school. That is why she says she is standing up for other transgender students.

“Some of these things help trans kids escape. I mean, maybe they don’t have good home situations, or maybe if they’re being bullied, you know. These team atmospheres are going to build them just as much as they build other people,” Heathscott said.

We first introduced you to Heathscott in September, when she shared her personal journey as a transgender woman. Heathscott said she fears this bill will hurt other students who identify as transgender. Heathscott cites recent violence against this population, as well as the December suicide of a transgender teenager named Leelah Alcorn. However, Senator Ernie Otten, (R) Lincoln Co., a sponsor of the bill, said it isn’t meant to discriminate.

“It’s got nothing to do with sexuality. It does have to do with physiology with having boys and girls built different and whatnot, and I think what they’re doing is opening the door to end up having kids getting hurt,” Sen. Otten said.

Otten also says he supports 1195 because he feels it would keep the playing field level.

“A lot of the other sports, there is a distinct difference in how they handle one another. You just may get kids who want to have an unfair advantage over other kids, and I don’t think that’s quite right,” Otten said.

However, Heathscott said being a transgender individual is not about a person’s body, and that she wants every child to have the same opportunities.

“As far as people asking if this is something you choose to do, no one chooses to go through hell. No one chooses to put themselves through the predicament of being hurt or being devalued. No one chooses to be in that situation. No one chooses to be bullied after school,” Heathscott said.

As of Monday night, the Sioux Falls School Board decided to oppose House Bill 1195. As for background on the South Dakota High School Activities Association policy, Assistant Executive Director James Weaver said the issue came up about two years ago. A school district called about a middle school student who identifies as transgender. District leaders wanted to know how to handle the situation when the student reached high school.

As a proactive approach, Weaver said the association adopted its current policy.


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