SALT LAKE CITY — A new bill introduced on Utah’s Capitol Hill aims to bar transgender high school and collegiate athletes from competing in women’s sports.
Republican Kera Birkeland was a referee for girls basketball long before she was ever called representative.
Now Rep. Birkeland coaches' girls basketball and works at the legislature, representing Utah's 53rd District, which covers Duchesne, Summit, Rich and Uintah Counties.
"In sports, biology matters," said Birkeland, who was told growing up that her opportunities for success were greater because her basketball team was all female.
"Women’s sports are not the same level of physicality as men's sports," said Birkeland. "We need to recognize that and make sure we are creating an environment where we have an even playing field."
The proposed bill outlines that female sports should be preserved on the basis of sex, not gender affiliation.
"There is a massive discrepancy in how we treat women in sports today," said Birkeland.
Yet, not all groups agree.
Elizabeth Converse, Director of Operations for Silicon Slopes Commons, said the bill does more harm than it does good.
"These are children we’re talking about," said Converse. "If we’re really wanting to protect children, ostracizing them is not the greatest way in Utah to make them feel loved, welcomed and safe."
Converse questions why the government is involved at this level with high school and collegiate sports.
Gayle Ruzicka, the president of Eagle Forum, said the government has always been involved with school athletics.
"Title IX is the government," said Ruzicka. "It was the Federal Government that passed the law and said girls could have their own sports."
The bill, said Ruzicka, is meant to allow women to play their own sports and compete on their own playing field.
"So many are concerned about equal opportunities for women, except for sports," said Ruzicka.
In a statement to FOX 13, Troy Williams, Executive Director for Equality Utah wrote "We can celebrate girls’ sports and not discriminate against transgender children, and make sure that young people can thrive and excel. We can protect fairness, equity and inclusion for everyone.”
In an online statement, Candice Metzler, Executive Director for Transgender Advocates of Utah said in part;
"Trying to eliminate natural human variation through legislation will not change the human reality that sex development and gender identity are diverse experiences that exceed a binary system of categorization.
All students should be given the dignity and respect of being supported and seen for their unique needs, potential, and contributions. We strongly oppose this legislation as an open forum for perpetuating stigma and abuse against transgender youth.”
In 2011, the National Collegiate Athletic Association released a policy on transgender student-athlete participation.
For student-athletes undergoing hormonal treatment, the policy states a trans male student and a trans female student "may compete on a men’s team, but is no longer eligible to compete on a women’s team without changing that team status to a mixed team."
According to the NCAA policy, after completing a calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment, a trans female may join a women's team.