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The Dartmouth
May 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

New Hampshire legislature advances bills banning trans athletes from team sports

The House bill mandates that public K-12 schools identify athletic teams based on biological sex, while the Senate bill bans trans girls from school or state-sanctioned female teams.

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On April 10, the New Hampshire Senate passed Senate Bill 375, which would ban transgender girls from playing on school or state sanctioned female sports teams. The vote came four weeks after the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 189 - 182 to pass House Bill 1205, the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which mandates that K-12 public schools classify athletic teams based on biological sex at birth — thus prohibiting transgender students from playing on teams that align with their gender identities.

The passage of HB 1205 has caused a debate among state House members around transgender inclusion in athletics. State Rep. Robert Lynn, R-Rockingham 7, said he was concerned about the “physical safety” of female athletes in contact sports.

“There is a danger of [female athletes] being hurt by stronger males,” Lynn said. 

Lynn argued that — while some may contend that HB 1205 contradicts the Civil Rights Act’s prohibition of discrimination based on sex — the context of this legislation is different. Unlike racial classifications, there are instances in which a “separate but equal” approach — particularly in areas like sports teams classified based on sex— may have validity, he said.

In an op-ed published on NHJournal.com, state Rep. Jess Edwards, R-Rockingham 31, also argued in favor of the bill, writing that transgender women have “a biological physical advantage” over cisgender women. These physical advantages could compromise the fairness of competition, Edwards wrote. 

State Rep. Amanda Bouldin, D-Hillsborough 25, said she voted against the bill, arguing that transgender girls are not “inherently superior athletes” and should not be denied the opportunity to compete based on their gender identity.  

“Testosterone and estrogen levels depend a lot on your individual body, and not largely on the way that your body presents itself,” Bouldin said. “If lawmakers think that it’s necessary to separate people participating in sports by aptitude, then they should do it by aptitude but not assume that the aptitude is inherently tied to their biological sex.” 

Dartmouth government professor and state Rep. Russell Muirhead, D-Grafton 12, said he voted against the bill because athletics enable young people to live a life that is “healthy physically and healthy mentally.”

“This bill makes it harder … for young people to access activities that they desperately need for the sake of physical and mental health,” he said. 

Muirhead added that the legislation will interfere with the abilities of families, coaches and teachers “to raise children in ways that create healthy flourishing young people.” 

Worries that the bill may harm the mental and physical health of transgender young people exist across Muirhead’s district, which includes Hanover. Hanover High School physical education instructor Todd Bebeau said it is important to create inclusive environments in schools, adding that young transgender people face “psychological repercussions” from exclusion and intolerance. According to Bebeau, educators can support transgender athletes by fostering empathy and compassion in sports programs. 

“I think transgender athletes face [a] higher risk of rejection, violence [and] discrimination,” Bebeau said. “If there’s anything that I could do as a coach to help guide them through a very challenging process, quite frankly, that’s my responsibility.”

State representative Peter Bixby, D-Strafford 13 — who voted against the bill — said the bill perpetuates discrimination and exclusion against transgender individuals, undermining their rights and opportunities in athletics. 

“I am disturbed [by] all of the anti-trans legislation that is being brought up by the Republicans, because they’re basically using a social issue … as a political weapon, ” Bixby said. 

Bixby added that House leadership has issued press statements urging the Senate not to pass the bill. The statements call the topic an “inappropriate” realm for the legislature that would instead be “best handled by the individual sports organizations.” 

Bouldin added that a state’s perceived commitment to equality and fairness can affect business investments and tourism. Laws seen as discriminatory may affect the state’s reputation, encouraging individuals and organizations to leave New Hampshire, he argued. 

“By making New Hampshire so hostile to families and to the younger generations of people, we’re destroying our economy,” Bouldin said. 

Gubernatorial Democratic candidate Jon Kiper also said legislation that is “harmful” to marginalized groups appears with greater frequency when people do not advocate against it.  

“The average person has become apathetic,” Kiper said. “They think that their vote doesn’t matter, so they don’t show up and they don’t advocate.”

According to Greyson Xiao ’25, who has testified in Concord against similar bills, that political apathy also exists within the Dartmouth community.

“It is hard to … get people involved in state politics because a lot of people at Dartmouth didn’t grow up in New Hampshire and aren’t personally that invested in what happens here,” Xiao said.

Despite the bill’s passage in the House, Bixby expressed optimism regarding the future of gender identity legislation. 

“I think that in the long run, there’s going to be a reversal of these negative Republican attacks on gender identity,” Bixby said. “In the long run, we’re going to have a more equitable society.”