Saturday, July 2 2022

Ember had barely started college when she learned of state legislation that would prevent her from playing softball.

say she made the university is something of an exaggeration. His Northeast Ohio high school team is short on players. It has no junior college equivalent. There aren’t even enough athletes to sustain a summer team. Ember, 17, plays as an outfielder and receiver.

She said her team treated her like any other player. The other teams probably have no idea she’s trans, she thinks. She is a reserve player who only started the sport in her second year.

Around the time she learned how to properly swing a bat, Republican lawmakers in the state of Ohio joined a nationwide wave of introducing legislation banning transgender girls from playing women’s sports. Eighteen states, all under Republican control, have signed them into law in just over two years.

“I had just started playing. It was scary. I just got on a team,” Ember, who asked that her last name and hometown not be shared, said in an interview.

“I finally just got to the point where I’m allowed to play – where the state agrees, you’re not advantaged in any way and you’re a girl. And then all of a sudden it’s felt like a full 180.

Currently, the Ohio High School Sports Athletic Association sets the Politics for transgender athletes. Ember, per policy, had to demonstrate that she had undergone at least a year of hormone therapy related to her gender transition, which she began during her freshman year of high school. She also provided information about her height and weight for comparison with other girls her age to show that she has no physical advantage.

Ember and her mother, Minna, described OHSAA’s policy as onerous but reasonable. It’s a lot of paperwork and blood tests that have to be repeated every year. It can be frustrating and stressful, but they said OHSAA staff treated Ember well and only seemed interested in keeping the sport fair.

The most important thing is that they are children. They are not Olympic athletes.

In their final legislative session earlier this month before the primary election, Ohio House Republicans slipped an amendment into a invoice which prohibits transgender women (male to female) from participating in women’s interscholastic sports. It was the second time in a year that they added a ban on transgender athletes in unrelated legislation and passed it. The bill’s sponsors insist they are not attacking trans people and are only trying to “preserve the integrity” of women’s sports from “disadvantage that threatens their athletic achievement”.

Ember isn’t buying any part of the argument. If lawmakers aren’t attacking trans kids, why are they also sponsoring bills banning health treatments for trans kids? And why do they only care about women’s sports when a trans woman is successful?

“I’m not some tall, strong, six-foot-tall guy pretending to be a girl here and taking over softball teams and winning championships,” Ember said. “For example, I can barely play because I’m not great.”

Trans athletes could still play in leagues for athletes of the gender they were assigned at birth under the proposed law. If a female athlete’s gender is “disputed,” the athlete must “establish” her gender through a medical declaration based on an examination of her genitalia; his “endogenously produced testosterone levels”; and an “analysis of his genetic makeup”.

In the 2021-22 school year, OHSAA issued six rulings regarding the participation of transgender women — one at the high school level and five at the middle school level, according to a league spokeswoman.

So, in a state of 11.8 million people, House Bill 151 would have the immediate effect of barring the small cohort of one high school student and five college students from playing sports. More broadly, critics of the bill — including his mother Ember — say the legislation is a naked attack on transgender people and a clear message that they are not welcome in Ohio.

“The most important thing is that they are children,” Ember said of herself and the four middle schoolers. “They are not Olympic athletes. They’re not there to win, they’re just there to enjoy the community, the friendship, and the sport itself. We are children. We’re not trying to take control of anything. We’re just trying to have fun. »

Ember. Photo courtesy of her mother, Minna. The family has requested that her last name not be used.

“Political Theater”

Support for banning trans kids from playing sports runs deep in the House Republican caucus. When the ban first passed in June 2021, only one of the 58 Republicans present vote no – the only defection came from Rick Carfagna, who has since left the House to work as a lobbyist. In a vote on the same bill in June 2022, Rep. Brett Hudson Hillyer was the only Republican in the House to vote no (he did not respond to a text message asking why).

Shortly before the Trans Sports Bill was passed, lawmakers held their fourth hearing on House Bill 454. The semi-related bill would ban doctors from providing ‘gender transitioning procedures’ to minors – a broad term referring to doctor visits, puberty blockers and other prescription drugs, hormones and the like care. The legislation also prohibits mental health care providers from referring patients to a doctor for these procedures. It blocks the use of Medicaid to pay for gender transition care, and even prevents private insurers from also paying for care.

Ember attended the hearing on Tuesday – her mother let her postpone her final government exam so she could attend. The day was scheduled for the opponent’s testimony, in which critics of a bill raise concerns and suggest changes to lawmakers.

A pediatrician, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and two lobbyists from the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association spoke first, urging lawmakers to oppose the legislation. Dr David Axelson, of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said the legislation risked depriving children of the mental health care they critically need. It implicates the government in family health care decisions and violates standards of care for transgender people set by treating physicians, he said.

After medical authorities wrapped up, Rep. Gary Click, a Republican from Sandusky County, kicked off the interrogation by asking Axelson why Nationwide Children’s Hospital is “providing hardcore pornography” to teenagers. He claimed that the erotic material was just a few clicks away from the hospital’s website.

From the public seats, Ember said she tried her best not to laugh at Click’s remark. She asked her mother if the legislator was serious with the issue.

Minna, Ember’s mother, was livid. She called the question excruciating.

“For the very first question to ask about accusing children’s hospitals of supporting hardcore pornography for minors, that was the clearest indication to me that this is just a theater political absolute intended to garner the support of a very limited number of people,” Minna said. “It’s just awful. Obviously it had nothing to do with the subject matter.

The lottery winner

Ember is pessimistic about the fate of the legislation and his future in Ohio. She said she senses no resistance to anti-trans bills from Republicans in Ohio, who firmly control the House and Senate.

A rising senior who turns 18 this summer, she wants to play college softball in some capacity. But she said she can’t do it if the ban on trans sports passes, so she looks out of state.

It could cost him a winning ticket. Ember won Ohio’s Vax-2-School Lottery, a federally funded incentive lottery for school-aged children to get vaccinated against COVID-19. She is one of 150 young people from Ohio to win a $10,000 scholarship to the college or university of her choice in the state.

If the ban on trans sports passes, Ember said she would leave the state for college; that would probably mean giving the scholarship to his brother.

Even if the bills don’t pass, Ember said their message is clear. That trans children are “sub-human”. Her mother agreed.

“Even if none of these bills pass, the very fact that they have been introduced – not just introduced but actually discussed and brought up repeatedly and carefully considered – sends the message that transgender and even LGBTQ people do not are not welcome here,” Minna said. “We don’t like you. We don’t want you. Leave.”

The legislature is due to reconvene after the November general election, which is expected to be Republican-friendly. The period is known as the “lame duck” session, as it is filled with members who have lost the election or are leaving office. Dynamics can change politics on any issue in one way or another. Senate Speaker Matt Huffman, R-Lima, told that the Senate will likely consider the trans sports bill.

Ember — between media appearances, advocacy and meeting with officials — said she was exhausted. She turns 18 next month and never wanted to be in the middle of a culture war until then. But the sport has done a lot for her, she said, and the actions of lawmakers could mean young trans girls may not have that chance.

“I just want to be able to play softball. I would much rather it just be that way and there not be a fight,” she said. “I don’t want to be part of this. I’m just here because all I can think about is the young kids under me who won’t have sports.

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