‘Cruel & unnecessary’ : LGBTQ allies, advocates call for defeat of trans sports bill

Lily Freeman, a 15-year-old transgender girl from Bucks County, speaking up against HB 972 at a rally in the Capitol Rotunda. (Youtube Screenshot.)

By John L. Micek

Hours after a state House panel advanced a bill that would exclude transgender athletes from competing on women’s sports team in the commonwealth, LGBTQ advocates and allies held an emotional rally in the Capitol rotunda where they urged its defeat.

“Today, I felt so disgusted that the leaders of my state would make such false claims about the trans community,” Lily Freeman, a 15-year-old transgender girl from Buckingham Township in Bucks County said.  

The Republican-controlled House Education Committee voted 15-9 to approve the bill, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Gleim, R-Cumberland, to the full House for a vote. If approved in its current form, the legislation would ban transgender athletes from participating in sports consistent with their gender identities.

Preston Heldibridle, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, which organized Monday’s rally, called the bill “cruel and unnecessary,” and said it was “not based in science or reality,” but instead sought to use “transgender children as political pawns.

“Pennsylvania is better than this,” Heldibridle said.

Freeman, who said she played with dolls as a child, just like any other young girl, said Gleim’s legislation was “all about stripping away the connections that girls have to each other … People in power are stripping away the definition of what it means to be a woman.”

Olivia Heim, a cisgender track and field athlete who attends Hempfield High School in Lancaster County, offered a similar sentiment. If Gleim’s bill ever found its way into law, cisgender girls who are taller, stronger or more gifted than other women athletes could find themselves being subjected to invasive tests forcing them to prove their femininity, she said.

“Factors outside an athlete’s control should not disqualify them from [participating in] sports,” Heim said, adding, “Acceptance is liberating. Don’t take that away from trans girls.”

Corinne Goodman, the executive director of the Lehigh County-based Eastern Pennsylvania Trans Equity Project, slammed the Republican-controlled General Assembly, accusing lawmakers of wasting their time on a divisive and likely unconstitutional bill, while ignoring the serious policy problems facing women’s sports.

“If we really cared about girls and women, we’d fully fund them, and show up on Tuesday afternoon when the girls take the field, and not just on Friday nights for the boys,” Goodwin said, referring to Pennsylvania’s Friday night high school football culture.

Gleim’s bill, which faces an almost certain veto by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf  “can never be allowed to see the light of day.

“I implore you to do the right thing,” Goodwin said.

John L. Micek is editor-in-chief of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this article first appeared.