Three anti-transgender bills receive mixed opinions in legislative hearings  

  • Post Author
    by Ray kirsch
  • Post Date
    Thu Oct 05 2023

Photo and story by Ray Kirsch

Students, LGBTQ+ activists and allies gathered at the Wisconsin State Capitol on Oct. 4 for the hearings of three anti-transgender bills. At 9 a.m., two committees held hearings regarding bill AB377, a bill on K-12 transgender students' participation in sports, and bill AB378, a bill banning transgender athletes from women's college sports. At noon, the Assembly Committee on Health, Aging and Long-Term Care heard bill AB465 that proposed to ban gender-affirming healthcare for minors. 

Authors of AB377 gave statements for nearly an hour. It is similar to a bill that passed the Assembly two years ago but never received a vote in the Senate. The bill primarily focuses on transgender girls and women's participation in sports, proposing to not allow transgender girls and women to play with other girls and women. 

According to the bill, school boards—whether public or private—would be required to categorize their sports teams as either “male,” “female” or “male and female.” Educational institutions would also be required to “prohibit a male pupil from participating on an athletic team designated for females.” The language of the bill focuses on sex rather than gender. The bill defines sex as “the sex determined at birth by a physician and reflected on the birth certificate,” meaning transgender students would be prohibited from the “all male” or “all female” teams. 

One individual speaking against the bill cited mental health statistics and highlighted how acceptance was the key to helping transgender youth.

“Eighty-three percent of transgender people considered committing suicide. Forty-one percent of LGBT youth seriously considered suicide in the last year. Fifty-six percent of trans youth are victims to suicide. These statistics are even worse for Black and Brown children,” she said. “Vulnerable and marginalized children are exactly the type of people our schools, communities and lawmakers should seek to protect. Instead, they're being singled out for more harassment and discrimination.” 

The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Association (WIAA) implemented a “Transgender Participation Policy” in 2015. According to their policy, a transgender student and their guardian must submit written verification from a healthcare provider, medical documentation and documentation from individuals in the student's life, such as friends, family and teachers. Additionally, the student must submit a written statement about their gender identity and expression. All documentation must affirm that the student is demonstrating “consistent gender identification and expression.” After submitting the material, the WIAA determines if the student is eligible to try out for sports. 

Rep. Barbara Dittrich, one of the bill's authors, said she is aware of at least six transgender athletes in Wisconsin high school athletics. Other representatives also stated that there are over 150,000 students total participating in high school athletics. 

Bill AB378, also co-written by Dittrich, would require each University of Wisconsin institution and technical college to also categorize athletic teams into “male,” “female” or co-ed. The bill's details are similar to AB378, only differing by focusing on college athletes rather than K-12. 

The Assembly Committee on Health, Aging and Long-Term Care hearing on AB465 opened two overflow rooms to accommodate for the amount of attendees. The hearing lasted over four hours, and speakers were limited to four minutes for their testimonies. 

AB465—also called the “Help Not Harm Act”— would prohibit healthcare providers from engaging in treatment of gender-affirming care to those under 18. According to the bill, any medical practices of referrals, treatment or intervention that is done with the purpose of changing a minor's body from their biological sex would not be allowed. There are a few exceptions of genetic disorders of sex development, treatment of injury, disease or disorder caused by gender transition procedures or imminent danger of death or impairment. Practitioners' licenses could also be revoked for providing gender-affirming healthcare services. 

Rep. Scott Allen, one of the authors of the bill, stated that his bill would prevent minors from making “emotional decisions” in his testimony. 

“This bill does not remove any adult's choice to medically transition their gender, nor does it remove any minor's right to socially transition,” Allen said. 

Allen also claimed that hormone therapy, puberty blockers and gender-affirming surgeries are a new form of “cash grab” by pharmaceutical companies being targeted toward the youth. 

Several Wisconsin hospitals, psychology and health associations and other major organizations have stated their opposition to the bill, as stated by Rep. Lisa Subeck during the hearing. 

“Doctors are trained to work with patients and their families to make the decisions that are best for them. It is not the business of this Legislature to step in and say we know better,” Subeck said. 

Many testimonies opposed the bill. One individual gave themself a shot of testosterone during their testimony. The ACLU of Wisconsin stated that the bills openly discriminate against transgender youth and raise privacy concerns. 

When asked about how many medical organizations have disagreed with his bill, Rep. Allen said, “It's entirely possible that our medical community has gotten it wrong.” 

Studies show that surgery is a less common option for transgender minors, with approximately 7.7% of gender-affirming surgery recipients being minors. Other gender-affirming care includes puberty blockers and hormone therapy. 

Governor Tony Evers vowed to veto any anti-trans legislation that would be introduced to the Wisconsin Legislature. Evers appeared at the Capitol before noon on the day of the hearings. 

After the hearing ended, Rep. Francesca Hong shared to her social media that the hearing was the “ultimate display of resilience and leadership from our youth here in Wisconsin.” 

“All children deserve access to team sports and healthcare, no matter who they are. And as policy makers, we should be expanding the potential to be their most authentic selves, not limiting it,” Hong stated. 

At 5 p.m., after many of the hearings finished, transgender individuals and allies gathered together outside the Capitol to protest the bills.