Sports Are Universal - Current Climate of Athletics in Missouri
I am a former Division 1 football player, and one of the first to be openly LGBTQ+ while actively playing. I decided to publicly come out in 2017 to show others like me who were a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and did not feel like they had a place in athletics, that they were not alone like I once felt, and that they too could play sports and be Queer.
I never would have imagined that in less than five years, laws are in the process of being passed in my home state to actively attack LGBTQ+ athletes, and keep them from participating in sports because of how they identify. Yet by August 22, 2022, Senate Bill 781 will go into effect in Missouri. This bill will discriminate against any trans female who wishes to play sports.
SB 781 titled the "Save Women's Sports Act" states that "No athletic team or sport designated for females, women, or girls shall be open to students of the male sex, as assigned at birth." The bill continues by stating that "No public or private institution of secondary or post-secondary education that has biological males as assigned at birth playing women's sports shall be eligible for money by the General Assembly."
This bill, along with the many other horrific laws which are being spread across the country are a direct attempt to invalidate and dehumanize every member of the LGBTQ+ community, and have no place in the 21 century.
According to the CDC, 1 in 4 LGBTQ+ youth thought about suicide in the first half of 2021. That number increases when specifically addressing those of us who are transgender. Yet not surprisingly, the percentage of trans youth who thought about or attempted suicide decreased by as much as 50 percent when simply provided with love and support from their support systems.
A truly supportive environment is what the transgender community needs from those around them, so how will UMSL respond as a member of the UM System which will be affected by this decision to directly attack students because of how they identify? What steps is UMSL actively taking to address this clear violation of our student’s civil rights as outlined within Title IX? What protections are being drafted and put into place to ensure that any trans female Triton who wishes to participate in athletics here at UMSL will be able to do so?
This law not only attacks trans women who wish to play sports, but it attacks the entire trans community as a whole as they see laws like SB 781 passed which attempt to tell them they are not the gender they say they are. History has never proven to support the idea that actively writing laws in support of the exclusion of an entire population of people is a step in the right direction for society. Sports are an activity that every young person should enjoy the right and ability to partake in, and should never be used as a tool to discriminate.
I have attempted to raise awareness about this issue with outlets here like the UMSL Daily. I asked them to stand in solidarity with our current and future trans students, and highlight the importance of creating an equal and safe environment for them to participate in sports here at UMSL. However, I was met with rejection and an unwillingness at the hands of UMSL Faculty and Staff to truly take steps to protect every Triton who may come through our campus doors, and was told, “this story does not align with the kind of stories we do.” The unequivocal support for all members of the LGBTQ+ community, not just some, is an absolute necessity, and should be a top priority for UMSL. We must do better to support our LGBTQ+ students.
Transgender inclusion and acceptance must align with stories that UMSL and our news outlets highlight, as anything less should disqualify the university from touting itself as an “equal opportunity institution.” We must do better as a community to lift up those of us who truly need our support. It is the duty of the university who touts itself as an “equal opportunity institution” to do everything in its power to make sure that our trans sisters are treated as equals while attending UMSL. This is the time for proactive measures to be taken to show our support for LGBTQ+ Tritons who will soon be negatively impacted by this bill, not the time to idle with our hands behind our backs and ignore the needs of our community.
Please sign my petition to protect trans athletes in Missouri here.