State law challenged by FHS teen golfer

A lawsuit was filed Thursday, Nov. 4, on behalf of a 14-year-old freshman transgender student at Farragut High School, challenging a 2021 state law requiring youth sports participants to play on teams of their assigned sex at birth.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Tennessee and Lambda Legal according to an ACLU press release.

The freshman “is an avid golfer who has been looking forward to trying out for the boys’ golf team at Farragut,” the release stated. “That aspiration was derailed when the Tennessee legislature passed and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed into law SB 228, which bans transgender middle and high school students from participating on interscholastic sports teams that match their gender.”

“I was really looking forward to trying out for the boys’ golf team, and if I made it, training and competing with and learning from other boys and improving my game,” the teen said in the release. “Then, to have the legislature pass a law that singled out me and kids like me to keep us from being part of a team, that crushed me. It hurt very much. I just want to play like any other kid.”

“It made me, and still makes me, so angry,” the teen’s mother added. “A mother wants to see their kid happy, thriving, enjoying being a kid. High school sports are an important part of that. I know how much (he) was looking forward to playing on the boys’ golf team. It’s heartbreaking to see him miss out on this high school experience, and it is painful for a parent to see their child subjected to discrimination because of who they are.

“I’m proud (he) is taking this step, and his father and I are with him all the way.”

SB 228 is one of many anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2021, according to the press release.

“During legislative debate, it was not endorsed by any mainstream sporting or health organizations,” the release continued. “In fact, health care organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have opposed such legislation, and the NCAA has reaffirmed its support for transgender participation in its athletics.

“Prior to the passage of SB 228, the Tennessee Middle School Athletic Association and the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association had regulations governing the participation of transgender students in school sports and had reported no issues with their inclusive policies.”

“There is endless research demonstrating the short-term and long-term benefits that flow from participating in team sports for kids growing up,” said Sasha Buchert, senior attorney with Lambda Legal. “For trans kids, who often experience alienation and stigmatization, participating on teams with their peers is especially important. (He) just wants to play golf with other boys, to be part of the team, and to improve his game. Like all kids, he just wants to play.”

“This is the ACLU’s fifth challenge to an anti-trans law that has passed this year,” said Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We will continue to fight these relentless attacks on trans youth. There is no reason, apart from the legislature’s desire to express its disapproval of transgender people, to keep (him) from playing on the boys’ golf team.”

“When Tennessee lawmakers passed this discriminatory law, they could not identify a single instance of a Tennessee student facing any harm from a transgender athlete playing sports. However, the emotional cost of this law to transgender student athletes is tremendous,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU of Tennessee executive director. “We stand with trans students across the state. ...”

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