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March 30, 2023 3:12 am

Local News

Pocan Condemns GOP Bill to Bar Trans Girls, Women from Student Athletics

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by Erik Gunn, Wisconsin Examiner

As Republicans in Congress advanced a bill in committee Wednesday that would block transgender student athletes from participating in girls’ or women’s sports, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) held a press conference to condemn the legislation.

Pocan, chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, called the proposed measure “part of a larger, coordinated attack against transgender people and the larger gay community.” The International Olympic Committee, the NCAA and other athletic governing bodies have guidelines that accept transgender athletes, he said.

The bill would rewrite Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments — the legislation credited with helping to open scholastic athletic opportunities for girls and women. Under the proposal, federally funded scholastic athletic programs would be in violation of Title IX if they permitted girls or women who were not identified as biologically female at birth to take part in girls’ or women’s sports.

“Unfortunately, this is about building the personal brand of some extreme right-wing politicians; people who fundraise from an appeal to a small subset of their political base,” Pocan said. “These bullying politicians will endanger the lives of trans kids for their own political purposes with the support of the GOP leadership.”

Shiwali Patel, a Title IX civil rights attorney at the National Women’s Law Center, said the bill was part of a national campaign to attack trans women and girls.

“While this bill is framed as protecting women’s and girls’ sports, we know what it really is,” Patel said. “It’s a bigoted and discriminatory attempt to target an already marginalized group, rather than address real barriers to gender equity and sports.”

Patel said the legislation, if enacted, would harm transgender, intersex and nonbinary student athletes, but it would also harm girls and women who weren’t transgender, potentially subjecting them to invasive “gender policing,” invasive medical tests to prove their gender and potentially putting them at risk of sexual abuse. 

Rebekah Bruesehoff, a transgender 16-year-old high school sophomore and field hockey player from New Jersey, joined the press conference with her parents,  Jamie and Christopher Bruesehoff, a Lutheran pastor.

“I don’t understand why lawmakers insist on bullying kids who just want to play,” Rebekah Bruesehoff said. “I should be in chemistry class right now. I’m here to tell you that kids like me should get to play sports with their friends. Honestly, that feels super absurd when I say it out loud, yet that’s what’s happening here.”

Her mother invoked the family’s religious perspective in support of their daughter: “As a family of faith, we believe that God created her to be exactly who she is,” Jamie Bruesoff said. 

“The idea that lawmakers would spend more time debating whether our daughter gets to play with her friends than they would protecting her from school shootings and gun violence is outrageous,” she added. “Plenty of things would make school safer for youth and allow all kids a better educational experience. Keeping trans youth from playing with their peers is not one of them.”

This story was written by Erik Gunn, Deputy Editor at the Wisconsin Examiner, where this story first appeared.

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