The Mississippi Senate voted to ban transgender athletes from competing on women’s sports teams in the state on Feb. 11 during a late-night session. If passed by the state House of Representatives, the ban would be established by Senate Bill 2536, which passed through the Senate with little discussion and only nine votes not in favor of it last week.
Now, UM’s Associated Student Body is urging the House to vote against the bill, and ASB president Joshua Mannery said he hopes other student governments in the state will do the same.
“To actively exclude transgender women from women’s sports, you’re cultivating this environment of hostility that will just continue to push violence and typecasting on that community,” Mannery said. “We don’t want to be a part of a system that actively makes our students feel unsafe and unwelcome.”
Hours after the bill passed in the Senate, Mannery contacted the student body presidents of all seven other public institutions in the state asking them to utilize their “connections to the state legislature” to advocate against the bill. Mannery said the other student body presidents seem to be waiting to take action.
ASB released a statement on Monday, Feb. 15 condemning the bill, and the ASB Senate unanimously passed a resolution to oppose the ban and compel the state House of Representatives to fail the bill.
“Our primary goal is to work within the confines of the UM Creed where it’s clearly stated that the respect and dignity of each person shall be upheld,” ASB Sen. Mason Greenwald said. “This ban is an encompassing umbrella ban on all trans people, and it frankly ignores many of the nuances of gender fluidity and transness.”
Other ASB Senate members who spoke in the meeting also argued that the bill would further transphobic sentiments and foster unwelcoming environments among sports teams in the state.
“It’s one thing for students to feel that transgender athletes might possess an unfair advantage over them, but it’s an entirely different matter for the Mississippi state legislature to completely ban transgender women from competing among the gender with which they identify,” ASB Sen. Andy Flores said.
If passed, the bill could put University of Mississippi athletics teams in violation of NCAA policies on the inclusion of transgender athletes, and in 2016 when North Carolina passed similar legislation, the NCAA responded by removing all championship events from the state.
In response to the reasoning that transgender women have an unfair competitive advantage on sports teams, the NCAA has said that the notion of an unfair advantage is based in “assumptions that are not well founded.”
Nonetheless, no state legislators or members of student government have said they are aware of any transgender athletes currently competing in the state.
“I think sometimes people look at this kind of stuff, and they’re like, ‘Well, this isn’t an active issue we’re dealing with, so therefore it really shouldn’t be at the forefront of what we need to take care of,’” ASB Senate president pro tempore Morgan Atkins said. “I think that the fact that this can happen and will happen at some point, and that there will be somebody who will be impacted by this, is reason enough to care.”
At this time, at least 11 other states have attempted to pass similar legislation to ban the participation of transgender people in competitive sports, including Texas, Montana and North Dakota.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Angela Hill, the sponsor of the bill, said that she “had numerous coaches across the state call me and believe that they feel that there is a need for a policy,” according to reporting from CNN.
Earlier this month, Gov. Tate Reeves also released a statement on Facebook against allowing transgender women to compete in athletics.
“I just don’t understand why politicians are pushing children into transgenderism in the first place,” he said. “And my heart breaks for the young women across America who will lose in this radical social experiment.”
Reeves has not yet addressed Senate Bill 2536 directly, and it is still uncertain exactly when the state House of Representatives will vote on the bill.