From The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/03/28/megan-rapinoe-transgender-kids-sports-ban/
by Megan Rapinoe
March 28, 2021
Megan Rapinoe plays for OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League and the U.S. women’s national team. An Olympic gold medalist and a two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup champion, she is also an ambassador for Athlete Ally, a nonprofit that advocates for equal opportunities in sports.
I remember how I felt when I played soccer for the first time. Long before I was winning World Cup matches, I was trying to keep up with my brother. Soccer has been a part of my life since I was 4 years old. I spent hours outside working to perfect that next move — I wanted to be the best.
Being able to play sports as a child shaped my life’s path. It taught me so much more than is seen on the field and brought me so much joy. Every child deserves to have that experience. That’s why I believe that all kids, including transgender youth, should be able to participate in sports they love.
But there are efforts across the country to ban transgender kids from participating in school sports. Already this year, lawmakers in more than 25 states have introduced legislation to ban transgender young people from sports. Mississippi enacted a law this month requiring schools to designate teams by gender assigned at birth. Efforts elsewhere are progressing.
These bills are some of the most intense political assaults on LGBTQ people in recent years. Sports have become another avenue to attack the rights of trans people. These efforts cause incredible harm to trans youth, who, like all kids in a global pandemic, are feeling isolated and need compassion and support. Even before the pandemic hit, 1 in 3 transgender youth reported attempting suicide, as one national crisis-prevention organization reported in 2019.
These bills are attempting to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Transgender kids want the opportunity to play sports for the same reasons other kids do: to be a part of a team where they feel like they belong. Proponents of these bills argue that they are protecting women. As a woman who has played sports my whole life, I know that the threats to women’s and girls’ sports are lack of funding, resources and media coverage; sexual harassment; and unequal pay.
I know what it feels like to be singled out and treated differently. No one should be treated unfairly because of who they are — and that is especially true of kids. Adults can’t pretend that we care about the well-being of children while actively creating environments that cause serious harm to them. We can’t make demands for a false sense of fairness while ignoring the actual needs of women and girls.
You may not know that a person in your life is trans — you may not be aware of the fullest self within your co-worker, friend, relative or even the child playing in your living room. Trans people contribute meaningfully to our society: our schools, neighborhoods, communities and families. Trans people deserve dignity, respect and opportunity. These bills are an attack on the humanity and belonging of trans people, and that’s why this issue is important to me as a member of the LGBTQ community.
For some, discrimination is the point. But we can celebrate all girls and women in sports while ensuring trans people aren’t discriminated against. That is why all women must stand up and demand that exclusion is not done in our name.
The value of participating in sports is well-documented. Transgender kids deserve the same chances to enjoy sports; to gain confidence, self-respect and leadership skills; and to learn what it means to be part of a team. When we tell transgender girls that they can’t play girls’ sports — or transgender boys that they can’t play boys’ sports — they miss out on these important experiences and opportunities. And we lose the right to say we care about children.
I want the trans youth in our country to know they are not alone. Women’s organizations, including the Women’s Sports Foundation, National Women’s Law Center and Gender Justice, along with sports icons including Billie Jean King and Candace Parker, agree that transgender girls and women belong in sports and should be able to participate alongside other girls and women.
Discrimination hurts everyone. We’re stronger as teams, and as a country, when all people who love sports have a chance to have their lives changed for the better, just like I did.
I want every transgender kid out there to know that they can live their dreams and be true to who they are. For them to realize those dreams, they need to be allowed to play.