April 28, 2021

(New York, NY - April 28, 2021) -- GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization is responding to West Virginia Governor Jim Justice’s signage of a bill, HB 3293, that prohibits transgender students from participating on sports teams consistent with their gender. The bill passed the state Senate 18 to 15 earlier this month.

A similar bill banning transgender students from sports participation is now awaiting a veto or signature from Gov. Greg Gianforte of Montana. Just last week Governors in Kansas and North Dakota vetoed similar legislation.

Six previous states, Mississippi, Idaho, Arkansas and Tennessee, and Alabama have signed sports ban bills into law and South Dakota’s Governor Kristi Noem issued executive orders that bar trans youth from participating in sports 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.

West Virginia now becomes the seventh state overall to ban transgender athletes from competing in sports consistent with their gender identity.

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:

“Earlier this week Gov. Justice said that he would absolutely sign HB 3293 into law yet voiced his concern over the NCAA pulling out of the state as a result. The NCAA has already confirmed earlier this month that the organization will only host events in locations that provide an environment that is free of discrimination, and today Gov. Jim Justice signed discrimination into law. Not only does HB3293 unnecessarily harm trans youth, but it hurts the economy for all citizens of West Virginia. 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.”

Anne Liberman, Director of Policy and Programs at Athlete Ally, an LGBTQ athletic advocacy group, told GLAAD:

“Athlete Ally is deeply concerned by West Virginia's HB 3293 and the effects it will have on vulnerable youth who simply want to play sports with their friends. Transgender youth play sports for the same reasons as their cisgender peers -- to experience the invaluable lessons of teamwork, hard work and discipline, and to be part of something bigger than themselves along with their friends. Every child in West Virginia deserves to have their life changed for the better through sports. At a time when West Virginia's economy is recovering from the impacts of COVID-19, passing openly discriminatory legislation targeting kids who want to play sports with their friends will have lasting financial ramifications for the state.”

The evidence against bans on transgender students in sports 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.
  • 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.