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Trans athletes say they are being ‘othered’ as record number of bills seek to limit rights

It's been a record-breaking year of bills proposed in state legislatures that would limit transgender rights - from access to medical care to sports participation. Despite that, a new PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll found that Americans across the political spectrum oppose those efforts, and more than half of people personally know someone who is transgender. John yang has our report.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's been a record-breaking year of bills proposed in state legislatures that would limit transgender rights, from access to medical care to sports participation.

    Despite that, a new "PBS NewsHour"NPR/Marist poll found that Americans across the political spectrum oppose those efforts, and more than half of people personally know someone who is transgender.

    John Yang has our report.

  • John Yang:

    Late afternoon in Boise, Idaho, and Lindsay Hecox is doing what she loves most. A track and cross-country runner in high school, Hecox, now 20 years old, dreams of running for Boise State University, where she's a student.

  • Lindsay Hecox:

    I don't know how I would have gotten through high school if I didn't have my running teams. They were my only friend group. I kind of just feel like I need friendship through running again.

  • John Yang:

    For most teenagers, going from high school to college is a big step. But for Hecox, it was a major life change. She came out as transgender, meaning her gender identity does not align with the sex she was assigned at birth, a condition known as gender dysphoria.

  • Lindsay Hecox:

    Gender dysphoria just sucks. You don't get to be the person you were meant to be just because of some random luck when you're born. I'm able to deal with struggles in life a lot better now just because I have already gotten through this.

  • John Yang:

    As her transition and college began, she found herself at the center of a political firestorm over

  • Narrator:

    All female athletes want is a fair shot at competition. But what if that shot was taken away by a competitor who claims to be a girl, but was born a boy?

  • Tucker Carlson:

    Opportunities for women are being shoved aside for a new priority, transgender athletes.

  • John Yang:

    Last year, Idaho became the first state in the nation to ban transgender women and girls from competing on all female sports teams.

  • Man:

    House Bill Number 500 has passed the House.

  • John Yang:

    Hecox, who had begun her transition not even a year earlier, was at the state capitol speaking out.

  • Lindsay Hecox:

    I think I'm rightfully pissed off. They word it so that I'm othered and made different, when it doesn't need to be that way.

  • John Yang:

    After Idaho's Republican Governor Brad Little signed the measure, Hecox sued, and a federal judge temporarily blocked the law from taking effect.

    In the year since, three more states, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas, have enacted similar bans. It's part of a sweeping trend. More than 60 such laws proposed in nearly 30 states this year alone, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group.

  • Lee Miringoff:

    This seems to be yet another in the list along party lines of the kind of cultural clashes we have seen, where Democrats are on one side of the fence and Republicans on the other side.

  • John Yang:

    Lee Miringoff is the director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

  • Lee Miringoff:

    That the Republicans are saying, all right, we're going to talk to our cultural base here, and we're not going to worry about the broader public opinion.

  • Woman:

    I'm calling from Marist College. We're talking to people in your community.

  • John Yang:

    A "PBS NewsHour"/NPR/Marist poll released today found Americans split on whether transgender athletes should be allowed to play on high school teams. But among Republicans, an overwhelming majority said they should not.

    However, when asked whether they should be banned by law, a large majority of both Republicans and Democrats said no.

  • Lee Miringoff:

    They don't want to legislate. They don't want to go to that level of extreme views or actions, in their own minds.

  • Dr. Robert Garofalo:

    I'm not a politician. I'm a pediatrician.

  • John Yang:

    For transgender youth and their physicians, like Robert Garofalo at Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, the effect of these bills could be very personal.

  • Robert Garofalo:

    My understanding of legislation is that we legislate things that are problems. This is legislation in search of a problem.

  • John Yang:

    The NCAA allows transgender athletes to compete on single-sex teams after a year of hormone therapy. Neither they nor state high school athletic associations keep track of the number of transgender competitors.

    But a recent Associated Press analysis found only a handful of instances among the hundreds of thousands of students playing high school sports. Those backing the bans say transgender females have an unfair advantage.

    Connecticut allowed transgender high school athletes beginning in 2017. Last year, four female track team members sued, saying that just two transgender runners had won titles that had been held by nine different female athletes.

  • Selina Soule:

    I was forced to compete against biological males. Girls across Connecticut and New England all knew the outcome of our races long before the start, and it was extremely demoralizing.

  • John Yang:

    Most medical experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, say there's no scientific or medical evidence that transgender female athletes inherently have an edge.

  • Robert Garofalo:

    We're not legislating sports participation based on the size of your shoe or based upon your height or other sort of immutable characteristic.

  • John Yang:

    In fact, Hecox says she noticed a difference the moment she transitioned.

  • Lindsay Hecox:

    Minutes are now gone from what I would be able to do in a 5K. I will feel like I can't go as longer. So, stamina, just — my muscles will give out. I will need to stop quicker.

  • John Yang:

    Dr. Garofalo says excluding transgender youth from athletics could be devastating for them, recalling his own teen years.

  • Robert Garofalo:

    Sports participation, especially in high school or junior high school, is much broader than whether you win or lose. If you would have told me when I was 17 that I couldn't play on the soccer team or I couldn't play on the tennis team, so much of my self-esteem, so much of what I pinned my self-worth as a teenager would have been erased or eradicated.

  • John Yang:

    Hecox hopes that public opinion will continue to shift in favor of transgender rights as more people hear stories like hers.

  • Lindsay Hecox:

    Things will get better, and this legislation is just a momentary setback for trans acceptance.

  • John Yang:

    What would you say to your high school self?

  • Lindsay Hecox:

    Yes, I would say that, even though this is hard, I don't want to just fade from the world and not have any impact on it. I'm on the leading edge of this, like, last frontiers, trans people. It's really awesome.

    So, high school self, be happy that you got this opportunity, and keep fighting.

  • John Yang:

    Fighting both in the courts and on the track for a slot on the team.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.

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