Iowa governor signs anti-trans sports bill

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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signs HF 2416, banning transgender women and girls from participating in school sports at any level. Photo courtesy of Iowa Governor's Office.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signs HF 2416, banning transgender women and girls from participating in school sports at any level. Photo courtesy of Iowa Governor’s Office.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, on Friday signed a bill that would bar transgender women and girls from participating in all levels of school sports, including college.

Iowa Public Radio reported that Reynolds signed the bill in the Iowa State Capitol rotunda surrounded by teenage girls and the Republicans who supported the bill. The radio network said the ban applies to public and private kindergarten through 12th-grade schools and colleges and universities affiliated with the NCAA and NAIA.

“This is a victory for girls’ sports in Iowa,” Reynolds said in a statement. “No amount of talent, training or effort can make up for the natural physical advantages males have over females. It’s simply a reality of human biology. Forcing females to compete against males is the opposite of inclusivity and it’s absolutely unfair.” 

There has never been proof nor any recorded instances of trans athletes having an advantage in sports over cisgender athletes. A Scientific American article in 2021 reported that the puberty blockers trans teenage girls are on remove any advantage testosterone may give. And even then, there is no proof that testosterone give an advantage.

“Studies of testosterone levels in athletes do not show any clear, consistent relationship between testosterone and athletic performance,” Katrina Karkazis, a senior visiting fellow and expert on testosterone and bioethics at Yale University, told the magazine. “Sometimes testosterone is associated with better performance, but other studies show weak links or no links. And yet others show testosterone is associated with worse performance.”

“Despite overwhelming opposition, and a plethora of medical and mental health experts giving testimony to how this will cause harm, Gov. Reynolds is telling Iowa’s transgender children and youth that they are less-than, and unimportant to her state in blatant disregard for Title IX,” said One Iowa Action Board Chair Angus Raymond. “We are profoundly disappointed in the legislature and the governor’s office.”

“My heart is breaking for trans youth in Iowa who now will not have lifesaving access to sports,” said Anne Lieberman, Athlete Ally’s Director of Policy & Programs. “HF2416 is one of the many bills around the country singling out transgender young people, increasing bullying and harassment, and preventing them from participating in the sports that they love. What these bills signal is that lawmakers do not believe trans youth deserve to be safe and included in every aspect of their lives. We will never stop fighting this cruelty.”

ACLU of Iowa Executive Director Mark Stringer said the state passed the law despite testimony both from medical professionals and trans teenagers.

“Elected officials have ignored their pleas and have instead passed a law that actively marginalizes and isolates these kids.” he said. “They are scoring political points at the expense of transgender girls who just want to play team sports along with other girls.”

“A blanket ban on transgender student-athletes is utterly unnecessary for Iowa youth, but it will have serious mental health impacts on the most marginalized among them. Sidelining trans students will only contribute to social isolation and stigma that fuels bullying and mental health challenges for young trans people – issues they already face at alarmingly high rates,” said Sam Ames, director for advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project. “To the trans youth of Iowa, please know that you are worthy of love and respect, and what is happening to you is wrong. But you are not alone. We are here for you and we will not stop fighting for you.”

Iowa is the 11th state to pass discriminatory laws over trans girls in sports. A similar bill is waiting on the Indiana governor’s signature and another one is being considered in Missouri.

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