By Randall Bertrand
I want to address some recent news regarding multiple bills circulating through committees in our Florida Legislature. Several of these (HB 1475, HB 935, SB 2012) target the participation of transgender students in athletics or target their well-being, specifically those assigned male at birth who now identify as a different gender. One of the measures would outright ban transgender participation. That bill advanced through a House committee this week.
There have been claims that “girls” sports will be destroyed because those who were assigned male at birth are physiologically stronger and possess greater endurance, lung capacity, etc. than those who identify with their gender at birth. Many of these same concerns have been echoed in similar bills in at least 23 other state legislatures. As an engineer, I have been trained to evaluate the facts pertaining to problems before setting forth solutions to ensure efforts are focused on the right problems.
I’ve heard the arguments from both sides, and I’d like to offer up some facts.
1. According to the Florida Department of Education website, there are 2,791,687 students enrolled in Florida Public Schools. (www.fldoe.org)
2. The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) outlines specific requirements in its bylaws (Section 16.8) for students to meet before they are allowed to “participate in interscholastic athletics in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity and expression, irrespective of the gender listed on a student’s birth certificate and/or records.” Here are the following requirements:
a. The student and parent(s) or guardian(s) shall contact the school administrator or athletic director to inform them of the intent to participate in a sport team that doesn’t align with their birth and/or school records.
b. A written statement from the student affirming the consistent identity and expression to which the student self-relates.
c. Documentation from individuals such as, but not limited to, parents /legal guardians appointed by a court of competent jurisdiction, friends and/or teachers, which affirm that the actions, attitudes, dress and manner demonstrate the student’s consistent gender identification and expression.
d. A complete list of all the student’s prescribed, non-prescribed or over the counter, treatments, or medications.
e. Written verification from an appropriate health-care professional (doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist) of the student’s consistent gender identification and expression. (It’s all here.)
3. The FHSAA has allowed participation of transgender students at least as far back as the 2013-2014 school years. (FHSAA Administration)
4. According to Jamie Rohrer, FHSAA’s associate executive director for administrative services, responding to a public record request I submitted to FHSAA on March 12th, since 2013, there have been only 11 students who have been approved for sports participation in accordance with their gender identity.
So, with only 11 students in the past eight years approved to participate in sports in accordance with their gender identity, how is this such an issue that requires multiple bills in our state legislature? Much the way it did in 2015 during the equally fabricated outrage over transgender persons and bathrooms, Our legislature seems to be pushing false information and feigning outrage over an issue that doesn’t exist. Even Representative Tuck, who is the sponsor of House Bill 1475, during the Secondary Education & Career Development Subcommittee meeting on March 17, could cite no instances of transgender girls dominating in girls’ public-school athletics. This is probably due to the exorbitantly low number of participants approved under the current FHSAA policy.
So why is this an issue now?
If we have evidence dating back to at least 2013, how has this not surfaced as an issue in girls’ sports? Probably because it’s not a real issue. We elected these politicians to solve problems in our state, and we certainly have our share of problems. My suggestions to our legislators pushing these bills is to stop, because you are embarrassing yourselves. The data shows you are addressing a problem that doesn’t exist and are pandering to your own personal biases. Take a look at solving some of our serious problems and spending our tax dollars on the needs of 2.8 million students or 21.5 million Floridians–not on the false fears over how 11 students may have affected high school athletics in eight years.
Randy Bertrand, a Palm Coast resident, led last year’s campaign to add “gender identity” among the Flagler County school district’s protections against discrimination, and is a candidate for the Flagler County School Board in 2022. Reach him by email here.