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Should Trans Girls Be Allowed To Play Girls' Sports?

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This year in 2021 alone, over 20 states have introduced bills that would ban transgender girls from competing in girls’ sports in middle and high school–some bans even apply to elementary school and college. These bills are controversial and sparking debate. So in this video from Above the Noise, we are asking, what’s the debate about trans girls in sports all about?

TEACHERS: Get your students in the discussion on KQED Learn, a safe place for middle and high school students to investigate controversial topics and share their voices. Click to see this video and lesson plan on KQED Learn.

What are the arguments for banning transgender girls from girls’ sports?

The debate is centered around the idea that if a trans girl was assigned male at birth, they have a physical advantage over girls who aren’t trans, and therefore competing in girls’ sports would be unfair. Supporters of this legislation argue that schools and sports teams should have these bans to keep the playing field level, otherwise trans girls would come in and dominate the sport, or take away opportunities for cis girls. With names like, “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” or “Save Girls Sports Act,” these bills are often backed by conservative & religious legal groups,  like Alliance Defending Freedom–which has a track record of pushing anti-LGBTQ policies.

What are the arguments against the bills banning transgender girls from girls’ sports?


Opponents of these bills argue that they don’t do anything to make girls’ sports fairer. Instead,  what they do is marginalize, exclude and hurt trans youth— who are already vulnerable and more at risk for being bullied. They say that the bills are anti-trans and are trying to solve a problem that just doesn’t exist. If lawmakers were really concerned about addressing problems in women’s sports, they would tackle things like lack of resources and funding for women’s sports, sexual harassment, and lack of media attention.

Do transgender girls have a physical advantage compared to cisgender girls?

It’s generally accepted that males can perform 10-12% better than women in any given sport, and this advantage is largely attributed to testosterone.  There’s evidence that those physical advantages decrease for trans girls who have been suppressing testosterone. The extent to which those advantages decrease can vary based on how long a person has been on hormone therapy, and if they began treatment before or after puberty. But this is an emerging field and there is not a ton of research on how puberty blockers and other hormone therapies affect physical performance. It’s also possible for cis girls to have more impressive size and strength than trans girls.  In short, there’s not a one size fits all answer.


Online Community: Gender Spectrum Lounge

It Gets Better

Transgender Law Center


Freedom for All Americans- Legislative Tracker

How Some States Are Moving to Restrict Transgender Women in Sports (NY Times)

The Massive Republican Push to Ban Trans Athletes Explained (Vox)

Opinion by Megan Rapinoe (Washington Post)

Caitlyn Jenner Says Transgender Girls in Women’s Sports ‘is unfair’ (News Nation) 

The Transgender Threat to Women’s Sports (Newsweek)

Trans Girls Belong on Girls’ Teams (Scientific American)

Transgender Youth at Risk for Depression, Suicide (Harvard)

Effect of Hormones on Athletic Performance (British Journal of Sports Medicine)

Literature Review: Sports and Transgender People (Sports Medicine)



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