Picture your daughter winning the 400-meter relay at her middle school track meet. Now picture her school and your family being sued because one of the losers doesn’t think she’s “really a girl”…and the only way she can prove it is by paying for a chromosome test and giving her genetic test results to the complaining team.
The plot of a futuristic dystopian novel? Nope – it’s Arizona in 2020 if HB2706 passes. This bill is part of a national push by the Alliance Defending Freedom and other extreme anti-LGBTQ+ groups to prevent transgender girls from participating in sports.
As a Tucson pediatrician, caring for around 3,500 young patients and their families, including about 150 transgender youth, I hate the very idea of any of my patients’ being excluded from activities that can, literally, be lifesaving.
HB2706 is harmful to girls who are transgender. Transgender girls are girls. And years of research tell us that girls who play sports are more likely to graduate high school, less likely to have early sexual intercourse, less likely to develop eating disorders, etc. For a transgender girl, being able to use her body for something as positive as sports can be an incredible boost in her self-esteem and well-being. Organizations as varied as the International Olympic Committee, the NCAA and the 60,000 pediatrician members of the American Academy of Pediatrics have done the research and found that transgender girls should be included in athletics and don’t pose a “risk” to women’s sports.
HB2706 is harmful to girls who are intersex. Intersex conditions exist in 1.7% of people in the population, making it about as common as red hair. Intersex girls can have any of a variety of chromosomal combinations, many of which are never detected until they don’t start their periods, or they have fertility issues later in life. Under the broad language of HB2706, these girls are to be excluded from girls’ sports as well.
HB2706 is harmful to girls who are poor. Twenty-four percent of Arizona children live in poverty, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2018 KidsCount report. Chromosomal testing is expensive, and AHCCSS and many private insurance plans will only pay for genetic testing if it will make a difference in medical treatment for a child. Being allowed to play softball will almost certainly not be considered a medically necessary condition. Keep in mind that there are no safeguards in HB2706 – any disgruntled parent or unethical coach on an opposing team can challenge an athlete’s gender and make her pay for testing. Girls who are targeted for testing and their families will have to pay out of pocket for cheek swabs or blood tests to “prove” that they are girls. What may be a manageable expense for a middle-class family could be a serious financial obstacle for poor Arizonans, and that will keep more girls on the sidelines.
Bottom line, HB2706 is harmful to all girls and women in sports. Forcing a girl to have unnecessary medical testing done, giving away some of the most private genetic information, just because a girl athlete is too good or doesn’t look classically feminine – or just because someone on another team loses to her – will have a chilling effect on girls getting to play sports. Girls and their families will think twice before getting involved in sports. Middle and high schools will think twice before continuing with girls’ athletic programs where they could be sued for providing too much opportunity or inclusion. The Legislature hasn’t even considered the potential effect on NCAA eligibility for Arizona teams if the state begins to exclude athletes while the NCAA promotes inclusion as one of its guiding principles.
As a pediatrician for more than 20 years and as a dad, I know how important sports are in our children’s lives. Please contact Gov. Doug Ducey today and ask him to speak out against HB2706 and tell the Arizona Senate to drop this biased, unnecessary, and hateful law before we harm Arizona girls.
— Andrew Cronyn is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a member of Equality Arizona.