Joe Henderson: Transgender sports bill relied on deception and discrimination
Image via AP.

Since 2013, only 11 transgender athletes competed in Florida high school sports.

Deception, unnecessary, discriminatory, and possibly illegal.

Those words came to mind while considering the stealth, dark-of-night end run by House and Senate Republicans to ban transgender girls and women from competing in high school and college girls’ and women’s sports.

Start with deception.

The bill to solve a problem that doesn’t actually exist appeared dead last week. However, like Frankenstein in a thunderstorm with lightning flashing all around, the monster rose again late Wednesday.

Republican lawmakers attached the ban to a larger charter school bill, no doubt feeling great about their upraised legislative middle finger to opponents. Wham! Bam! Pass that sucker!


And it’s headed for Gov. Ron DeSantis so he can formalize this move by his party members to ban things they don’t understand.

I thought Republicans were supposed to oppose so-called “cancel culture.”

Guess not.

That leads us to point No. 2.

This bill is unnecessary and potentially could cost the state significant dollars. Of course, those who voted in favor of this won’t be hurt. If organizations like the NCAA and professional sports operations punish Florida by pulling lucrative events here, it’s the worker bees who will feel the pain.

That includes restaurant and bar employees, hotel workers, and just about everyone else in the service industry. Conventions could think twice about spending their dollars here because corporate America likes to avoid customer backlash in these fragile economic times.

The NCAA and Major League Baseball already proved they take any discrimination seriously. In 2015, North Carolina passed a law requiring transgender individuals to use public restrooms aligned with the gender assigned at birth.

The NCAA responded by pulling championship events from the state. North Carolina and the NCAA later reached an agreement in 2017, but it cost the state about $3.76 billion.

And, of course, we know that MLB pulled the All-Star Game scheduled for Atlanta in response to Georgia’s voter suppression law.

What’s worse, this ban solves nothing. Even backers of this bill can’t come up with a single example of a transgender athlete dominating a girls’ high school sport in Florida. That’s because there aren’t any.

Longtime Orlando Sentinel sports columnist Mike Bianchi was among the many who asked why this law is necessary.

In 2013, the Florida High School Athletic Association enacted a review policy for transgender athletes. Since then, Bianchi noted, only 11 transgender athletes competed in Florida high school sports. Only two were girls.

“That’s right,” he wrote, “TWO transgender girls in nearly a decade.”

But go ahead, Republicans — especially sponsor Kaylee Tuck of Lake Placid — and give yourself an extra cookie.

That’s what House Speaker Chris Sprowls recently did, saying he “couldn’t care less” about such threats. Well, Mr. Speaker, thousands of your fellow Floridians do care because it could impact their livelihood.

No matter. I’ll bet if you peeled back the layers, Republicans just can’t wrap their heads around why people identify as a different gender than the one they were born with. When that happens, GOP lawmakers feel the need to pass a law.

They won’t say that, of course.

The Miami Herald reported that Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, said the bill was the “most simplistic resolution.” It ensured “women are going to play with other women that have the same physiological makeup.”

Simplistic is what we get when lawmakers don’t want to take the time to understand what’s really at stake.

As for the legality of the bill, well, consider Title IX.

It says: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Well, guess what? Just about every college and university in America receives federal assistance. That includes those in our state.

It likely will come soon to a courtroom near you. Florida will no doubt spend lots of money defending the indefensible.

And for what?

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Reggie

    April 29, 2021 at 10:52 pm

    So biology matters when we celebrate our first female VP or Nancy Pelosi but not in athletics when it really does make a difference. Got it Joe.

  • Ron Ogden

    May 1, 2021 at 9:46 am

    We do not need sports where boys in skirts grab real girls. and liberals shout ” it’s their right.” That is not liberty, that is abuse. Not needed? Perhaps not last year or the year before, but that was a time before woke-ism when society thrived on common sense.

    • Tom

      May 1, 2021 at 3:41 pm

      I remember when society thrived on the “common sense” of Donald Trump, pathological liar and leader of an insurrection against the government of the United States of America. Pining away for those good old days, are you? Tsk tsk.

Comments are closed.


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