Published February 10, 2021
On Tuesday, Tennessee joined over a dozen states that are considering regulations for youth athletics.
In the Tennessee House, legislation is being advanced that could restrict transgender girls from playing middle or high school sports.
The proposed bill would require students to prove that their sex matches their “original” birth certificate or another form of evidence “indicating the student’s sex at the time of birth” in order to participate in sports in the public school system.
Legislators in Tennessee debated a bill last year that was similar and the proposal cleared the House chamber but didn’t make it through the Senate. The bill will require multiple hearings in both chambers before making it to Gov. Lee.
Nonetheless, the Republican-dominated State House expressed significant support for the proposal during the first hearing.
“We are the great state of Tennessee. We don’t operate like California or New York. If we as a state of Tennessee are afraid of ever making a difference because we might be sued some day, then we should all pack our bags and go home,” said Rep. Michele Carringer from Knoxville.
Supporters suggest that transgender girls that were born male have a natural propensity toward athleticism that then gives them an unfair advantage in sports.
Those who oppose such legislation often cite federal education laws prohibiting sex discrimination or point back to August 2020 when a federal judge on issued a temporary injunction to stop Idaho from enacting a law banning transgender people from women’s sports.
World Athletics (IAAF) and the International Olympics Committee (IOC) currently requires a minimum twelve months of hormone testosterone suppression to ensure a level playing field for all competing athletes.
The IOC last revised regulations for transgender competitors in 2016 when they moved to no longer require surgery. In the same revision, they reduced the requirement for hormone suppression from 24 to 12 months, a decision now being questioned by physicians internationally.
Study findings published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine indicate that although hormone treatment was associated with changes in athletic performance, transgender women still retained a competitive advantage two years into treatment.
“This study suggests that more than 12 months of testosterone suppression may be needed to ensure that transgender women do not have an unfair competitive advantage when participating in elite level athletic competition.”
The physicians conducted a review of medical records and fitness tests for transgender men and women from 2013 to 2018.
“(The findings) suggest that governing bodies for sporting competition should require more than 1 year of testosterone suppression prior to competition when creating guidelines for inclusion of trans women in women’s elite athletics.”
In October, the World Rugby League became the first international sporting body to ban transgender women from playing in the women’s division, citing “player welfare risks.”
These advantages may matter little in strictly recreational settings, but raise questions regarding the eligibility of students participating in school sports or other programs that may have sights set on creating regulatory-level athletic success as the internationally accepted and scientifically-backed timeline for such may exceed many student sport careers in the state of Tennessee.