April 15, 2021


GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, is responding to the North Dakota legislature’s passage of a bill today prohibiting transgender students from participating in a school-sponsored athletic team. The bill passed 69 to 25 and now goes to Gov. Doug Burgum’s desk.

Bills banning transgender students from sports participation are now awaiting vetoes or signatures from governors of North Dakota, Montana, Kansas and West Virginia. 

Three previous states, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee, have signed bills into law, and South Dakota’s governor issued executive orders after expressing concerns about the legality of the state’s ban. Lawmakers across the country have acknowledged they could not cite an instance of trans participation being an issue in their states. 

North Dakota has had a policy regulating trans participation for the last five and a half years. 

GLAAD released a guide for journalists covering the wave of anti-LGBTQ bills nationwide.

Statement from Serena Sonoma, GLAAD’s Communications Coordinator and Regional Media Lead, U.S. South: 

“Transgender young people just want to be safe, belong, and live free of discrimination, including from some in their own government. There is no evidence that including trans kids harms anyone. States that include trans students have more girls participating in sports than states with bans. This bill and similar measures across dozens of states are unnecessary and harmful to all young people. Lawmakers must stop targeting the most vulnerable in their states. They are sending a terrible message that hurts all kids and threatens their states’ economies. Gov. Burgum must veto this damaging bill.”

The evidence against sports bans is well-documented:

  • 16 states, the NCAA (since 2011), the Olympics (since 2004), and several professional and recreational leagues including USA Gymnastics, U.S. Soccer, and the National Women’s Hockey League all have policies allowing transgender participation in sports. 

  • North Dakota, Kansas, West Virginia and Montana risk losing NCAA events as the NCAA issued a statement this week reminding of its policy that events only be held in “locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination.”

  • On March 10th, more than 545 college student-athletes sent a letter to the NCAA Board of Governors.calling for the NCAA to uphold its nondiscrimination policy and publicly refuse to host championships in states with bans against trans athletes.

  • Student signatories are athletes from college and university athletics from every region in the U.S., representing a variety of sports including men's and women's basketball, men's football, track and field, rowing, swimming, diving, and gymnastics. The letter cites the 2016 NCAA non-discrimination policy following the institution’s decision to move all championship games out of North Carolina in response to House Bill 2, which prohibited some transgender people from using public restrooms according to their gender identity, a move estimated to cost North Carolina $3.76 billion. 

  • The harm faced by trans students is well-documented. The Trevor Project research shows 40% of transgender and nonbinary youth reported being physically threatened or harmed because of their gender identity. GLSEN research shows 45% of trans students fear using the bathroom at school. 22% of trans women perceived as trans in school were harassed to the point they had to leave school because of it. Banning them from activities with their peers further stigmatizes and traumatizes. 

  • All students benefit when transgender and nonbinary students are included:

More than a quarter of transgender and nonbinary youth (27%) who participated in sports reported mostly A grades compared to 19% who did not participate in sports.

  • Participation in girls’ sports declined in states with outright bans or policies that exclude trans girls, while participation remained steady among girls in states with policies that include transgender girls. 

  • In states where transgender youth are allowed to play, more women and girls—not fewer—are playing sports.