While she might be ending her final term in Congress in just several short weeks, former presidential candidate and Representative Tulsi Gabbard partnered up with Representative Markwayne Mullin to introduce a new bill before she says goodbye — and it has a deeply transphobic twist. H.R. 8932, entitled the Protect Women’s Sports Act, seeks to limit women’s collegiate sports programs to only people assigned female at birth. “Title IX was designed to give women and girls an equal chance to succeed, including in sports. Allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports diminishes that equality and takes away from the original intent of Title IX,” Gabbard said in a statement.
But this is only the latest attempt to prevent transgender athletes from competing in sports according to their true gender as opposed to their gender assigned at birth — or what Gabbard has referred to as "biological sex." In September, Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler paired up with Tom Cotton and several other senators to propose another transphobic bill, the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act. That bill similarly aimed to make it a violation of Title IX protections for any educational institution that receives federal funds to allow transgender women to participate in women’s sports.
Additionally, a law that bans trans athletes from participating in school sports also passed in Idaho. However, a preliminary injunction was granted to stop the bill from doing irreversible harm. In June, the Supreme Court also decided that under the Civil Rights Act, discrimination on the basis of gender identity is classified alongside sex discrimination.
Akin to Loeffler’s bill, Gabbard's new bill introduced would also make it a violation for schools that receive federal funding to "permit a person whose biological sex at birth is male to participate in an athletic program or activity that is designated for women or girls.” If it were to become law, it would make it impossible for trans women to play women's sports. So far, advocates have come out in droves to denounce the harm that the Protect Women’s Sports Act could do. “Dare I say that women’s sports may benefit from actual protection like resources, equal pay, training, support. Stop weaponizing your fear of transness to hurt all women,” said Chase Strangio, an ACLU lawyer and trans advocate.
“High school students shouldn’t have to pick between medically necessary care or the ability to take part in activities at school, whether that’s sports or marching band or AV club,” tweeted Parker Molloy in a thread about why the ruling’s effects could be so negative.
What is perhaps just as alarming is the fact that Gabbard may be the only (technical) Democrat to promote anti-trans legislation like this. Though it should actually come as little surprise. When Gabbard first ran for president on the Democratic ticket, the politician drew ire from Democrats for her former denouncement of LGBTQ+ rights. In the early 2000’s, Gabbard called those seeking to legalize civil unions “homosexual extremists.” She also promoted conversion therapy and boasted about working for The Alliance for Traditional Marriage, an anti-gay organization run by her father.
Until 2004, she both voted against and lobbied against same-sex marriage in her home state of Hawaii. Though she’s since shifted her positions on LGBTQ+ rights, including the fact that she signed a brief supporting a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, her rhetoric and past choices have continued to be criticized. When she announced her run for president in 2019, she told CNN, "I regret the positions I took in the past, and the things I said. I'm grateful for those in the LGBTQ+ community who have shared their aloha with me throughout my personal journey."
While many Gabbard supporters — if they still exist — have stressed that she’s moved away from her homophobic roots over the years, the introduction of this bill doesn’t help that cause at all. In fact, it only further cements her as being anti-LGBTQ+ rights. At the end of the day, Gabbard’s choice to make one of her last acts as a national politician a transphobic swan song — which would deprive trans people of their autonomy — only reveals who she truly is and who she has been all along.