GLAAD and Local LGBTQ Organizations in Tennessee Respond to Legislature Passage of Anti-Transgender Sports Ban, Urges Governor Bill Lee to Veto

April 27, 2022

GLAAD, the world's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is responding to the Tennessee legislature’s passage of HB2316, an anti-trans college athlete bill that bars trans girls from participating in women’s sports through the college level. 

The bill was sponsored by Rep. John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge). 

Last Friday, Gov. Lee signed HB1895 into law, a bill that cuts funding for schools that did not implement last year’s anti-trans sports bill into law. 

Statement from Executive Director, Relationship Unleashed, Gwendolyn D. Clemons: 
“As a community based organization whose work is directly committed to advancing equality for LGBTQIA+ folxs we knew these attacks were coming. We stand ready to continue fighting for equality for all. We've watched our protection for equality be rolled back since 2017, under the Trump administration especially in our home state of Tennessee. Most of these misguided bills are targeted attacks on the transgender community, particularly those in school and their access to medical care. These bills are filled with fear mongering language and lack any substantial evidence to support laws and bills filed to address these claims. It's important that our community as a whole pause and pay attention to what's happening simultaneously around the U.S. Our human rights are increasingly being rolled back to pre civil rights era's. We need all allies and supporters of equality to speak out in their respective states to denounce these attacks. Our lives cannot become political or religious pawns to win points under conservative disguises.” 

Statement from Executive Director, Tennessee Equality Project, Chris Sanders: 
"We join GLAAD in calling on Governor Lee to veto this legislation that harms young transgender and nonbinary Tennesseans. To codify stigmatizing attitudes based on misinformation magnifies their damage. But a veto would send a powerful message that these legislative attacks must end so that we can write a new, more inclusive chapter in our history."

Statement from GLAAD’s Regional Media Lead, U.S. South, Serena Sonoma
“Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice sent a letter to every state attorney general stating that discrimination against trans youth is sex discrimination and risks funding for states participating in federal programs. Tennessee legislators are not only sending an unmistakable and cruel message to LGBTQ residents in their home state and all Americans that they stand strongly against LGBTQ rights, but one that risks education funding simply to discriminate against young people. Laws like this send messages that make LGBTQ people less safe, including young people. Every child and teen needs to hear the message that you belong, sports are for everyone, and everyone wins when everyone is included. Lawmakers should listen to the experts in medicine, sports, education and child development, and support ways to make sure every kid feels welcome. This bill hurts all children and Tennessee's future as a place to grow and succeed.”

Research to include in your coverage:

  • Every major medical association including the American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics support access to school sports as important for children’s physical, social and emotional growth. 
  • Women athletes overwhelmingly support trans inclusion. In December 2020, nearly 200 leading women athletes including Billie Jean King, Megan Rapinoe, and Candace Parker submitted a legal brief urging support for trans women and girls in sports and opposing anti-trans sports legislation and policies. In 2021, GLAAD and Athlete Ally released a letter signed by over 550 college athletes (mostly women) who demanded the NCAA pull events from states with anti-trans school sports bans.
  • The International Olympic Committee released guidelines in November 2021 to prioritize safety and inclusion for transgender people, after consultation with medical, legal, sports and human rights experts, and determined that “no athlete has an inherent advantage over another due to their gender identity, sex variations, or appearance.”
  • 85% of transgender and nonbinary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66%) — say debates in the states restricting rights of transgender people negatively impacted their mental health.
  • In multiple states proposing legislation in 2021, lawmakers could not cite a single instance of trans inclusion in sports being an issue in their states. Media should continue to ask public figures for evidence of specific problems in their states.
  • Media should check bill language for how proponents propose to enforce the bills, including whether there are required anatomy screenings that hurt all children.
  • Anti-LGBTQ legal groups (classified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center) support these bills, often with identical language state to state. A designated hate group, ADF, has filed lawsuits using demonstrably false claims to attack transgender inclusion in state-level bills.
  • There are no reported instances of transgender students “taking scholarships” from other students. Anyone claiming this should be asked for evidence.
  • Research shows participation of girls in sports overall is higher in states with trans-inclusive policies.

2022 is already a record-setting year for state legislation targeting LGBTQ people, with more than 283 anti-LGBTQ bills proposed. This follows 2021’s record of proposed bills targeting transgender Americans’ access to education, athletics, healthcare, and bathrooms. 

  • Freedom for All Americans tracks anti-LGBTQ legislation across the U.S.
  • Polls show wide support for laws protecting LGBTQ people - 76%. Less than one in five Americans (19%) oppose nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans. 

About Relationship Unleashed: 
Relationship Unleashed is a grantee of GILEAD’s Compass Initiative, the organization is deeply rooted and committed to its values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.  

About Tennessee Equality Project: 
The Tennessee Equality Project advocates for the equal rights of LGBTQ people in Tennessee.  We do this through legislative advocacy.  That means we lobby the Tennessee General Assembly and local governments around the state.  When there is an important federal issue, like bills that include anti-LGBTQ adoption language, we help you make your voice heard with your federal officials.