Iowa Republicans passed a bill that was signed into legislation by Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday, March. House File 2416 prohibits transgender girls from competing in girls’ sports. The law is effective immediately.
“This bill discriminates against and singles out transgender students,” said Rep. Jennifer Glover Konfrst, Iowa House District 43 and a School of Journalism and Mass Communication professor at Drake University.
According to the CDC, just 2 percent of high school students identify as transgender. Even fewer transgender students play sports, so the bill targets a very small population.
Konfrst said transgender students just want “the chance to benefit from all the great things that come with participating in sports.” They feel targeted enough without the discrimination this law enforces.
Republicans claim the bill “protects girls’ sports” from unfair advantages, but opponents note that cis-gender girls come to the sport with different body shapes, heights and physical differences.
“As a woman, a mother of three daughters, and now a grandmother of three young girls, it worries me that this bill is needed at all,” Reynolds said at the bill signing ceremony Thursday. “It’s hard to imagine how anyone who cares about the rights of women and girls could support anything less.”
Trans girls have been competing in sports in Iowa for fifteen years without a problem, according to a report by the ACLU. The ACLU also said misinformation and stereotypes about trans girls in sports have been harmful to the community.
Student athletes agree the law hinders athletic opportunity.
“Everyone should feel comfortable in their own skin and should get the same opportunities to play sports no matter how they identify,” said Jadyn Feucht, a first-year on Drake’s rowing team.
Feucht said there’s not much difference between men’s and women’s rowing teams.
“We both have the same tasks at the end of the day and put in the work to do the best we can to win,” she said.
First-year Savannah Ming, a sprinter on Drake’s track and field team, agrees that athletes deserve to play how they identify, but feels “there needs to be some other way to regulate it”.
“More individual sports are harder to combine because they’re individual wins. You’re working for a collective goal, but you doing your very best is imperative [to the team’s success],” Ming said.
She explained the inherent biological differences between males and females in relation to her track and field event. Males are born with narrower hips that help them run faster.
“We can run with the guys, but the fastest women are still going to be slower than the fastest men biologically,” Ming said.
However, Ming stands with the opposition against the new legislation.
“They didn’t choose to have these unfair advantages,” Ming said. “All athletes should have the opportunity to compete.”
Both Feucht and Ming can see how the new legislation could affect Drake’s athletic teams as well as athletic programs in the state of Iowa.
“If someone is being recruited, they may not attend a school in [Iowa] because of these restrictions,” Feucht said.
Ming said she “get[s] it” as she wouldn’t want to go to school “somewhere I’m not wanted”.
Ming is disappointed by Iowa’s decision because she hopes Drake would be more inclusive of trans girls in athletics.
“Going forward, [the legislation] will make [recruitment of trans athletes] much more difficult,” Ming said.
There is hope for trans athletes in Iowa. The NCAA is discussing their policies, according to Konfrst.
“Students thrive when they are treated with dignity and respect, and transgender students are no different,” Konfrst said.
In addition, the Des Moines Register has published reports that legal experts are assembling a case against the bill. It’s possible the legislation is a direct violation of Title IX because it discriminates on the basis of sex.
Until then, Iowa schools K-12 and Iowa colleges must follow the legislation’s prohibition of trans girls in sports.
Drake’s athletic department did not reply to requests for comment.