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Balancing Act: Stop targeting transgender kids in youth sports, says American Academy of Pediatrics. Bravo
AP

Balancing Act: Stop targeting transgender kids in youth sports, says American Academy of Pediatrics. Bravo

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Pediatricians have joined the fight against laws that target transgender kids in youth sports. (Detroit Free Press/TNS)

In the wake of a rash of bills aimed at curbing the rights of transgender kids — specifically in youth sports — the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement recently affirming its commitment to protecting the health and well-being of LGBTQ young people and condemning legislation that does the opposite.

“Several state legislatures have introduced bills that would prohibit gender-affirming care for gender-diverse and transgender youth and forbid transgender youth from participating on sports teams according to their gender identity,” reads the statement, written by AAP President Lee Savio Beers. “These bills are dangerous. If left unchallenged, there will be transgender teens in certain zip codes who will be unable to access basic medical care, and pediatricians in certain zip codes who would be criminalized for providing medical care. And, transgender youth would be denied the ability to participate in sports according to their gender identity.”

Twenty-five states have introduced bills barring transgender women and girls from competing in women’s sports. Federal legislation has been introduced in both the House and the Senate designating sex “based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth” and barring sports programs that receive federal funds from allowing a person assigned the male gender at birth to participate on teams designated for girls or women.

 

The legislation is controversial among athletes.

More than 500 collegiate athletes signed a letter in March demanding that the NCAA stop holding championships and events in states that have passed or are considering passing such laws.

The Women’s Sports Foundation has condemned the legislation: “The false rhetoric taking hold is a distraction to the real threats to girls and women in sports, such as lack of Title IX understanding and compliance; inequity in compensation, resources, sponsorship, and media attention; harassment and abuse of female athletes and women working in sports, the list goes on.”

The American Civil Liberties Union has vowed to fight such bills, launching a lawsuit against Idaho (the only state that has passed such a ban so far) and a petition asking the public to pledge support for trans athletes.

And pediatricians have joined the fight — or, rather, reinforced their commitment to the fight. The AAP released a policy statement in 2018 promoting acceptance and affirmation of transgender children.

“A lot of these bills are targeting sports and activities where many of these kids finally truly feel safe and part of a team and a community,” pediatrician Jason Rafferty, who authored the AAP’s 2018 policy statement, told me. “Sports are really an incredible avenue for team building and cooperation and for a lot of kids to feel included in something, and that includes transgender and gender diverse youth.”

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, 1.8% of U.S. high school students identify as transgender.

“Transgender kids have been playing sports for years and it hasn’t resulted in anything close to a takeover of podiums or teams,” USA Today sports columnist Nancy Armour wrote in March. “In fact, when the Associated Press asked the lawmakers in more than 20 states who are sponsoring bans on transgender girls competing in high school sports to give specific instances when this created problems, very few could.”

Armour called the rash of legislation “a solution in search of a problem.” Also, “hateful nonsense.”

I agree. So does the AAP, particularly during a pandemic.

“A lot of these bills aim to cut off marginalized kids from the important social supports where many of them finally feel safe,” Rafferty said. “They threaten to cut off ongoing health resources, activities and sports — some of the real resilience factors these kids have in terms of positive development.”

“We are in the middle of a pandemic that has led to staggering rises in mental health concerns among children and teens,” the AAP’s statement reads. “Transgender children had statistically higher rates of depression and suicidal ideation before the pandemic: around half of transgender youth consider suicide, and a third attempt it.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that youth who identify as transgender have access to comprehensive, gender-affirming, and developmentally appropriate health care that is provided in a safe and inclusive clinical space,” the statement continues. “We also recommend that playing on sports teams helps youth develop self-esteem, correlates positively with overall mental health, and appears to have a protective effect against suicide.”

A welcome bit of sanity, rooted in clinical expertise and the best interests of children, on a topic that rarely brings out the best in grown-ups: youth sports.

“Politics has no place here,” the AAP statement concludes. “Transgender children, like all children, just want to belong. We will fight state by state, in the courts and on the national stage to make sure they know they do.”

Bravo.

Watch Now: Helpful parenting advice during difficult times, and more videos to improve your life

Watch Now: Helpful parenting advice during difficult times, and more videos to improve your life

Check out some advice on parenting during difficult times, some heart healthy activities other than cardio, and more videos to improve your life.

 

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