Community members speak on Iowa bill banning transgender girls from girls sports

(ABC 6 News) – A bill is working its way through the Iowa state legislature that would ban transgender girls from high school and college girls sports. Some say this protects girls from unfair advantages, while others say this targets an already marginalized group of Iowa youth.

Iowa House Republicans passed the bill last week.

"This is not a good piece of legislation. It is state-sanctioned discrimination, it is illegal, and it is going to have drastic negative health impacts for the folks who are impacted," said Keegan Crow, the director of policy and advocacy at One Iowa.

Transgender youth make up between two and 10 percent of Iowa’s population. A smaller percentage are transgender girls and an even smaller percentage play sports. Those who oppose the bill say focusing on this legislation is not only discriminatory but also a poor way to spend time and money.

"I did not come to this legislature to legislate prejudice. You know, healthcare, our workforce, childcare, all of those things we should be focusing on. Not this minute percentage of Iowans who just want to belong," said Representative Sharon Steckman (D, Mason City).

Supporters of the bill say girls sports need protection, and that transgender girls have an unfair advantage due to differing testosterone levels.

"I refuse to live in a world where little girls like my sisters have records, titles, and scholarships robbed from them by biologically male individuals. A world where they can’t even feel safe in their own locker rooms because we’ve allowed them to by hijacked by men on the basis of their feelings," said Ainsley Erzen, a student-athlete.

The bill passed the Iowa house 55 to 39 along party lines. It requires student-athletes at public and private schools to compete on teams according to the gender on their birth certificate. If they don’t, the school could be open to lawsuits. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has already voiced her support for the bill — saying it’s a fairness issue.

"The differences between the genders is obvious. Simple science the chromosomal differences, not to mention the biological and physical differences as well," said Danny Carroll, a lobbyist with the group The Family Leader, a conservative Christian organization that opposes the LGBTQ+ community.

Many healthcare professionals testified to the house, saying transgender youth already struggle with mental health, and experience depression and suicidal thoughts about 300 times more than their non-transgender classmates.

"Transgender children are at risk of very poor mental and physical health and are at high risk for suicide," one Iowa pediatrician said.

This bill made its way through the House and now needs to be heard by the Senate. State Senators discussed similar legislation last year, but nothing was ever passed.