‘The divides are so much smaller than what people understand’: Local advocacy group shares thoughts on TN bill set to prohibit transgender athletes

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — A day after the Tennessee Senate passed a bill that would prevent transgender athletes from participating in middle and high school sports based on their gender identity, a board member for a local advocacy group says lawmakers should do more research.

Senate Bill 228 passed in a 27 to 6 party-line vote. The House version of the bill, House Bill 0003, is awaiting scheduling for a third and final vote by the full chamber.

Aislinn {Pronc: Ash-Lynn} Bailey, board member and secretary of Tri-Cities Transgender, said bills like these create more problems in people’s lives rather than improving them.

“The divides are so much smaller than what people understand,” she explained. “They only talk about transgender women. They never talk about trans men. You put bills like this, you’re going to have trans men competing against women which is exactly what they say they don’t want. You’re doing psychological and emotional harm to children during a very vulnerable time in their life.”

Bailey said there are advantages and disadvantages in sports all the time.

“A 7’0″ tall basketball player has advantage over a 5’0″ one. You don’t see people saying, ‘no, these tall people can’t compete’,” Bailey said. “Bills like this do nothing but create inequities.”

She added that trans people have one tool that levels the playing field and that is hormonal pills.

“The difference is, biologically speaking, especially once transwomen have been on their hormones and all, the majority of any advantages disappears, and it becomes no more so than any cisgendered woman who has a genetic advantage,” she said.

News Channel 11 reached out to several local lawmakers about the matter, including state Rep. Scotty Campbell who represents District 3, which covers Johnson County and part of Sullivan and Carter counties.

“I’ve had a number of people from Northeast Tennessee contact me with concerns that they’re going to have girls competing against boys and people with various gender identities,” Campbell said. “So, this bill would simplify the process. You still have males, you still have females, you still have the boys team, you still have the girls team, and people won’t get to decide what they want to be in any given school year.”

State Rep. David Hawk of Greeneville, who is a co-sponsor of the bill, released this statement:

“Our constituents in Northeast Tennessee largely support the concept that participants in middle school and high school athletics play the sport that aligns with the sex designation on their birth certificate. I will vote in favor of this legislation.”

David Hawk
State Representative
District 5 – Part of Greene County

In February, Gov. Bill Lee spoke out about transgender people participating in sports.

“I do believe that transgenders participating in women’s sports will destroy women’s sports,” Lee told reporters. “It will ruin the opportunity for girls to earn scholarships. It will put a glass ceiling back over women that hasn’t been there in some time. I think it’s bad for women and for women’s sports.”

Bailey asked, “If they’re dominating the sport that they’re playing in, why don’t we know all of them? Yes, there are outliers and there are some, but how many cisgendered athletes in their region and dominate their regions?”

News Channel 11 reached out to several athletic directors in the Tri-Cities region. They have either declined to comment or have not gotten back to us.

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