Members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community in Norman and OU said the shift from Senate Bill 2blocking trans girls and women from joining women’s sports teams in public K-12 schools and universities, will serve as a first step in keeping trans people out of the public eye.
Governor Kevin Stitt signed the “Save Women’s Sports” law on Wednesdaywho comes after swimmer Lia Thomas became the first trans woman to win an NCAA swimming championshipdrawing controversy on his way to victory.
The LGBTQ+ Student Alliance has also released a statement on Wednesday writes that he is “disheartened and exhausted” but determined to fight this latest legislation.
“Trans people, trans children are not faced with the daunting task of coming out for athletic or social gain, but in search of authenticity and accurate representations of themselves,” the statement read.
In her Wednesday speech, Stitt, who was surrounded by female athletes holding “Save Women’s Sports” signs, emphasized the “physical advantages” of men over women.
“We protect women’s sport,” Stitt said. “We ensure a level playing field for female athletes who work hard, who train hard, who are committed to their team, who dream of being No. 1 in their sport, who deserve fair competition.”
Caroline Sparks, Senior Sociology and Public Relations and UO LGBTQ+ Student Alliance president, said she had a stomach ache watching Stitt sign the bill on TV and was saddened to see other OU students in attendance. OU distance runner Levi Gladd spoke at Stitt’s signing ceremonyopposing the presence of trans women on the track.
The OU Athletic Department said in an emailed statement that it “continues to embrace diversity and inclusion and is committed to creating an environment of belonging where those who play for us, work for us and support us are welcomed as themselves and authentically”. A spokesperson for the university wrote in an email that the statement affirms the university and the Center for Gender Equality and Gender Equality’s “values of inclusivity and ensures that all are treated with dignity and respect”.
In her Wednesday speech, Stitt said Oklahomans “stand with female athletes.” Sparks said if state officials really prioritized helping women, their first step wouldn’t be to attack a certain group of women.
“It’s just a nasty exercise in power and control,” Sparks said.
Tate Hughes, an UO Masters of Social Work student who sits on the board of Norman pridesaid he did not believe the bill was justified in Norman or nationally. The ACLU of Oklahoma said on March 30 that the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association has not documented any cases of trans athletes competing at the high school level, and SB 2 addresses a problem that does not exist.
“I think a lot of it comes down to fear and not understanding what it means to be trans,” Hughes said.
The bill would require the parent or legal guardian of a student who competes on a sports team to sign an affidavit acknowledging the student’s gender at birth, according to its text. If a student is 18 or older, they can sign the affidavit themselves.
Any student or school that suffers direct or indirect harm as a result of a violation of this requirement has a cause of action for relief and damages against the State Board of Education, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, the school sports association or intercollegiate association.
Hughes said this bill creates a slippery slope that could lead to increased surveillance of women’s bodies. If more trans women are forced to have testosterone tests, for example, he said a person might get frustrated that a teammate is taller or faster and claim the teammate is trans, forcing them to be monitored more closely.
Hughes said some Oklahomans fear the increased attention to the trans community and the issues surrounding it. SB 2 does not bar trans men from joining men’s sports teams, a fact it says is rooted in misogyny, though the bill’s authors refuse to recognize trans women as women.
Sparks said many trans students already face mental health issues, which could be exacerbated by a bill invalidating their identity. According to the trevor project42% of 2SLGBTQ+ youth have seriously considered attempting suicide in 2021, including more than half of transgender and non-binary young adults.
“We have to recognize that part of our obligation to each other is to create a world that people actually want to be a part of in their full humanity,” Sparks said.
Hughes said this most recent legislation is similar to the Trump administration’s 2019 military trans ban, because it sends the message that the community is dangerous. Misinformation about trans women is already pervasive and can lead to passage of bills that restrict access to trans toiletsamong other harmful laws, he said.
Norman Pride plans to continue his advocacy and remain candid about the negative impacts of SB 2, Hughes said.
“It’s just about supporting trans youth and trans girls, and reminding them that there is a great community of people in Oklahoma who are still fighting for their rights and still want to create a safe place to them,” Hughes said.
The LGBTQ+ Student Alliance prioritizes the student community in the same way, Sparks said. She said she was about to graduate, along with many of her classmates, and they were celebrating each other’s successes.
“Sometimes in this state, that success is getting your essay turned around on the same day that a violent bill impacting your community was signed into law,” Sparks said. “Sometimes that success means, ‘I’m still here and I’m not going anywhere.’ It’s the bare minimum, but it’s the reality for LGBTQ+ people in Oklahoma.
Sparks said any trans students looking for a community can contact her or the LGBTQ+ Student Alliance and take advantage of resources offered by the Gender + Equality Center.
“There is love here for them in this world, even though they feel lonely because they are each the greatest example of that,” Sparks said. “I really want to emphasize that if they’re feeling this right now, there are people on campus who love them, care deeply about them, and want to stand by them.”