Four states—Georgia, Missouri, Washington and now Tennessee—have recently sponsored bills that seek to prohibit  transgender students from playing on sports teams in accordance with their gender identity, Forbes reported Friday (January 10). 

Tennessee’s House Bill 1572, introduced last month by Republican state representative Bruce Griffey, “requires elementary and secondary schools that receive public funding to ensure that student athletes participate in school-sanctioned sports based on the student’s biological sex as indicated on certificate issued at time of birth,” or they risk losing funding. A partisan move, the recommendation is getting pushback.  

“The bill is an attack on transgender student athletes and the extreme penalties for school administrators and school districts are unprecedented,” Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, told The Hill. “The provisions about birth certificates will prove unworkable for school districts. This is poorly written, cruel public policy.”

Policies vary by jurisdiction, but nonprofit Transgender Law and Policy Institute includes the following in its “Guidelines for Creating Policies for Transgender Children in Recreational Sports”:

All young people should have the opportunity to play recreational sports and have their personal dignity respected. Transgender young people are no different. In fact, because transgender young people often must overcome significant stigma and challenges, it would be particularly harmful to exclude them from the significant physical, mental and social benefits that young people gain by playing recreational sports.

Meanwhile, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)—which governs participation for student athletes who continue playing beyond high school—lets trans athletes compete according to their gender identity, with some important caveats, per a 2018 report:

A transgender male…student-athlete who has received a medical exception for, and is being treated with, testosterone for purposes of NCAA competition may compete on a men’s team, but is no longer eligible to compete on a women’s team without changing that team status to a mixed team. 2. A transgender female…student-athlete being treated with testosterone suppression medication, or who has undergone surgical intervention to suppress testosterone production, for gender transition, may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed-team status until completing one calendar year of documented testosterone-suppression treatment or one-year post-surgical intervention.

Next up for the Tennessee bill is a—currently unscheduled—House vote.