DeSantis signs acrimonious legislation banning trans women from women’s sports teams

Gov. Ron DeSantis signs bill that bars transgender women and girls from playing on women's sports teams on the first day of Pride Month. Screenshot/Florida Channel

But Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Tuesday that bans transgender women from women’s sports in high school and college, a move that some lawmakers and LGBTQ advocates are calling heartless and discriminatory.

DeSantis’ action came on June 1, the first day of the month that is nationally recognized as Pride Month for the LGBTQ community. Communities across the nation, including in Florida, will host celebrations of LGBTQ  accomplishments as well as reflect on the and remember those lost do to anti-LGBTQ hate crimes.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ advocacy group, said in a Tuesday tweet that it will be filing a lawsuit to “block this arbitrary, discriminatory ban.”

But proponents of the legislation claim that the intent is to ensure that cisgender women and girls — those who were assigned female at birth and continue to identify as such throughout their lifetime — do not lose out on scholarships and athletic opportunities, saying that transgender women will have a competitive advantage.

“Girls are gonna play girls sports and boys are going to play boys sports,” DeSantis said at a press conference Tuesday about the bill signing.

The press conference took place at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville and he was joined by several lawmakers. A wall of young student athletes stood behind DeSantis during the conference.

The legislation, called the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” bars athletes from participating in women’s sports teams if their original birth certificates categorize them as male. Meaning that transgender women cannot compete on the team that aligns with their gender identity.

The legislation does not draw the same line for those who were assigned female at birth, though.

“Athletic teams or sports designated for males, men, boys may be open to students of the female sex,” the language reads. This could allow transgender men to play on either men or women’s sports teams.

This legislation is a part of a national effort to regulate the lives of transgender people in the United States, and is one of several states to legislate transgender athletes in particular.

Equality Florida, a Florida-focused LGBTQ advocacy group, will host several rallies Tuesday evening in protest of DeSantis signing the bill, including in Orlando, Sarasota, and Bradenton, according to its website.

Sen. Shrevin Jones, a Democrat who represents parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, is one of Florida’s lawmakers who is a part of the LGBTQ community. He released a statement on the bill signing Tuesday.

“This is yet another hate-driven attack from the Governor and Republican legislators, and it’s insulting that they’ve staged this morning’s photo-op on the first day of Pride Month. At the end of the day, transgender kids are just kids,” Jones’s statement reads. “Most people don’t know what it’s like to be transgender or to be the parent of a transgender child, but we should all be able to agree that every Florida child deserves needs love and support, not aimless attacks from the legislature.”

Rep. Carlos Smith, a Democrat who represents part of Orange county noted in a Tuesday tweet that the Florida High School Athletics Association already has protocols to determine how transgender athletes participate in sports Florida. Smith also is part of the LGBTQ community.

“FHSAA has allowed trans kids to participate in FL since 2013 with ZERO problems,” Smith said, continuing to note that the legislation “fuels transphobia and puts vulnerable kids at risk for no good reason.”

Agriculture Nikki Fried, who is expected to run against DeSantis for governor in the 2022 election, tweeted Tuesday about the signing:

“By signing a heartless ban on transgender kids in sports, @GovRonDeSantis is marginalizing an entire community. Signing it on the first day of #Pride2021 is especially cruel. Florida should stand for inclusivity, equality, and liberty — not peddling hate for political points.”

While the bill language does not explicitly say that transgender student athletes will be banned from sports, transgender women and girls may not feel comfortable playing on a team with cisgender boys and could be subjected to bullying for being transgender.

The social climate and hostility towards transgender people could lead to fewer transgender students to pursue athletes if they are forced to play on a team which does not align with their identity.

The legislation signed by DeSantis was part of a charter school bill that was approved in the 2021 legislative session.

Lawmakers slipped the transgender athletes language into that charter bill to get the measure through the Legislature. Charter schools are nontraditional public schools that generally operate by private entities.

Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University, majoring in English with a focus in editing, writing, and media. While at FSU, she served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine, Nomadic Noles. Last fall, she fulfilled another editorial internship with Rowland Publishing, where she wrote for the Tallahassee Magazine, Emerald Coast Magazine, and 850 Business Magazine. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat. She spends her downtime traveling to all corners of Florida and beyond to practice lindy hop.