As part of a strategic, targeted attack on the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals in the United States, over 250 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced in state legislatures across the country this year, making 2021 the worst year for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in recent history. The Florida Legislature was no exception.

On the first day of Pride Month, Governor DeSantis signed Florida’s transgender sports ban (S.B. 1028) into law, making Florida the eighth state to exclude transgender youth who simply want to play sports like their peers.

In the face of this nationwide assault on the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals, SLC will continue challenging discriminatory laws and policies that target transgender youth. If you or anyone you know will be impacted by the anti-transgender sports ban in Florida, please contact Simone Chriss, Director of SLC's Transgender Rights Initiative, at simone.chriss@southernlegal.org

Though it is called the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” it is, in reality, not about fairness but discrimination. The law prohibits transgender girls from participating on girls’ sports teams, regardless of the gender listed on the students’ birth certificate, their hormone levels, or any other gender-affirming intervention. This is directly in conflict with the policies of the governing bodies for athletics, each of which were developed through consultation with medical experts, including: the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA), which supports the participation of transgender high school athletes, as well as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which support the participation of transgender athletes in college sports and in the Olympics. Florida’s new law is even more restrictive than similar bans in other states, which permit participation based on testosterone levels, criteria that aligns with the NCAA and IOC policies.

National studies and surveys have made clear that transgender youth are already disproportionately likely to experience depression, anxiety, and psychological distress, and are nine times more likely to attempt suicide than their cisgender peers. When legislation like Florida’s trans sports ban targets transgender youth and paints them as a danger to others, it further stigmatizes and harms an already marginalized group of children. Participation in team sports results in positive outcomes for youth, such as social and physical development, psychological well-being, higher self-esteem, and decreased depression, hopelessness, and suicidal ideation. Unfortunately most transgender youth (75%) do not feel safe at school, and as a result they already avoid gender-segregated spaces and activities and miss out on opportunities such as team sports.

What became clear while listening to the legislative debates on the anti-trans bills on the three versions of the trans sports ban in Florida (H.B. 1475, S.B. 2012, and S.B. 1028) was that they were not intended to address any existing problem or injustice. Florida lawmakers and bill sponsors could not cite to one single issue caused by a transgender athlete in the entire state of Florida, despite the FHSAA allowing transgender youth to play on teams in accordance with their gender identity for nearly a decade. These bans are not based in science, evidence, or reason, and are directly contrary to the consensus of the experts in the areas of sports, medicine, and science. 

What fills us with hope and inspires us to continue the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in Florida are the myriad communities, individuals, organizations, advocates and allies who mobilized statewide and worked tirelessly throughout the legislative session to ensure legislators understood their constituents did not want such harmful, hateful, discriminatory laws in the state of Florida.

We need your help to fight back against the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination. Donate now to support SLC as we challenge systemic injustices such as Florida’s transgender sports ban. We can’t do this without you!