Culture and the Family
Ray Carter | March 4, 2022
Oklahoma lawmakers vote to bar males from women’s sports
Only biological females could compete in girls’ sporting events at Oklahoma schools under legislation approved by a state House committee.
House Bill 4245, by state Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, creates the “Save Women’s Sports Act.” The legislation states that eligibility to participate in boys’ or girls’ sports shall be “based on biological sex” and that athletic teams “designated for ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’ shall not be open to students of the male sex.”
The legislation is being advanced as biological males who identify as transgender females have been dominating girl’s sporting events at the high school and college level nationwide.
“As a 19-year educator, I understand the challenges that are faced by marginalized groups of students, and I understand that this is a group of—that I call children—this is a group of children that have been marginalized in their homes, in their Sunday school classes, in their classrooms, on the playground,” said Hasenbeck, R-Elgin. “I understand that. We have to reach a better solution other than allowing females to have times that are recorded and set at a national level defeated by biological-male students and children.”
If the bill becomes law, the parents of student athletes would have to sign an affidavit acknowledging the biological sex of the student at birth, or students ages 18 and older would have to sign a similar affidavit to participate in sporting events.
Any student who is “deprived of an athletic opportunity or suffers any direct or indirect harm” as a result of a violation the law would have “a cause of action for injunctive relief, damages, and any other available relief permitted by law against the school.”
Hasenbeck said lawmakers have been contacted by “many” Oklahoma families whose daughters have been forced to compete against biological males identifying as transgender females.
“Just last week, I had a family contact me and they told me that their daughter was competing against a child that was born as a male,” Hasenbeck said.
She noted there are physical differences between male and female bodies that provide significant competitive advantages to biological males who identify as transgender females and compete against female athletes in sports.
“We know that when biological males participate in these sports, they are faster because they have denser bones, they have more lung capacity, they have the abilities for their nerves and muscles to communicate in a faster way,” Hasenbeck said. “We are not equal in this way.”
State Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, noted the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) has a policy on transgender athletes and said no complaints have been filed with the organization.
“What that tells me is that these instances are not happening in our public schools—any school that is governed by OSSAA,” Virgin said. “It’s simply not happening.”
The OSSAA policy states that a “male-to-female student who is not taking hormone therapy, or who has been taking hormone therapy for less than one year, may only participate on boys teams,” while a male-to-female student “who has completed one year or more of hormone therapy may participate on girls teams.”
If a member school decides not to permit a transgender student to participate as the gender requested by the student, that decision can be appealed to OSSAA’s board of directors.
“This is an attack on children,” Virgin said. “And it will be a harmful attack. They will see this and they will be harmed by it.”
Rep. Mauree Turner, an Oklahoma City Democrat who self-describes as “gender non-conforming,” claimed that many transgender students in Texas experienced mental distress after similar sports regulations were imposed in that state.
Turner also dismissed the idea that transgender females are different from biological females.
“I think it’s important to note, right, first and foremost, that trans women and girls are women and girls,” Turner said.
Turner said sports help children “become friends” with other students, among other benefits.
“To deny trans folks the opportunity to participate in sports not only denies them the opportunity to grow those key aspects, those key characteristics, that make someone a contributing member of society as we continuously say we are trying to build here in the Legislature, but it also says and invalidates these children, these students, their existence,” Turner said. “It says that they’re not welcome to participate in sports with us. It says that we don’t want to see them. We don’t want to hear them.”
Turner repeatedly referred to such students as 2SLGBTQ+ youth. That acronym stands for Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning along with additional sexual orientations and gender identities.
However, Hasenbeck noted biological males who identify as transgender females are often ostracized in sports, particularly when they beat female competitors.
“You can watch video of student athletes who no one congratulates them when they win,” Hasenbeck said. “And male athletes shatter female athletes’ records. If we study the statistics on Olympic time trials for any timed event, high-school athletes, high-school male athletes, shatter the records of female Olympians.”
She said the physical advantages of male-bodied athletes allows them to deprive female students of opportunity.
“Girls have a right to excel in their sport and compete for records on a national scale, to compete for scholarships at universities and not have those taken,” Hasenbeck said.
HB 4245 passed the House Rules Committee on a 6-2 vote.
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.