As the Republican Party has launched a major offensive against transgender Americans as part of a broader culture war over the past several months, most of the action played out in statehouses across the country. But with the GOP now in charge of the House of Representatives, the battle has moved to Washington, D.C.
On Wednesday, the U.S. House Committee on the Education and the Workforce held a hearing on two bills that perfectly encapsulates the Republican Party’s supercharged focus on targeting transgender youth.
HR 734, the Protecting Women and Girls in Sports Act, a bill that seeks to ban trans girls from participating in sports, and HR 5, the Parents Bill of Rights Act, legislation that calls for parents to have a greater say in what educators teach and strips LGBTQ youth of the right to speak to school staff without parental notification.
Hundreds of anti-trans bills have already been introduced on the state level, with many becoming law. However, these bills introduced on the federal level signal a new phase in which the conservative movement wants to make attacking transgender people a nationwide project. There isn’t a Senate nor a president that would approve these assaults — for now. But that could change in less than two years.
While Democrats came to the hearing prepared with research, statistics and anecdotal evidence from LGBTQ people, the GOP offered talking points that could have been lifted from your average right-wing Facebook group commenter.
Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) repeatedly suggested that the Biden administration was seeking to “erase women,” apparently by starting with letting trans girls play sports on teams that match their gender identity. Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) posited that he was happy that the hearing was public so that Americans could see that Democrats “didn’t believe that God created the science of sex.”
Meanwhile, Democrats pointedly noted that these bills were a part of the GOP’s ongoing cultural war on anyone not white, straight, conservative and cisgender.
“This is just a false sense of moral panic being ginned up by a political party that seeks to use trans kids as pawns to gain power,” Rep. Mark Takano (D-Ca.) said.
These GOP bills are not responding to issues of national concern but to outrages of their own making.
Last year, the Biden administration proposed changes to Title IX, legislation that bans sex-based discrimination in schools and universities, that would extend protections to LGBTQ students. The White House, however, did not address whether or not this explicitly meant that this change would include allowing trans athletes to participate in sports with teams that match their gender identity. The Protecting Women and Girls in Sports Act is a direct reaction to that proposal — even though no changes to Title IX have been made.
The one-page bill stipulates that “sex shall be recognized based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.” However, it does not explain how schools should determine a student’s reproductive biology.
The proposal, though vague, sets out to exclude transgender athletes from school sports. Put simply, it’s discrimination. Not only does it fly in the face of the purpose of team sports, but it also weaponizes the federal government against a minuscule portion of the population already at higher risk for mental health issues, including depression and suicidal ideation.
There are only about 50 openly transgender athletes participating in college-level sports. Acknowledging this number, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said, “It is ludicrous to suggest that such a handful of athletes… justifies national Congressional action.”
But the GOP says the bill is necessary to protect women and girls in sports, even though the bill doesn’t do anything to address the real problems in women’s sports — pay disparities, harassment and discrimination.
The other bill discussed at the hearing is another idea popular in conservative circles.
Popularized in places like Florida and Virginia, parental rights have become a catch-all for policies that seek to inject conservative dogma into public schools, remove books that Republican politicians don’t like, and ultimately, undermine the public school system to push charter schools and private schools—to line their pockets.
The Parents Bill of Rights Act is more substantial than the anti-trans bill. Democrats were concerned with provisions that called for disseminating lists of library books to all parents.
While the Republicans framed it as transparency, conservative parents across the country have been leading the charge on book bans by alleging that books about LGBTQ issues as “inappropriate” or “pornography.” They’ve successfully got school districts to remove books, and a federal bill like this would only empower more parents.
Another concerning provision of the bill would require school officials to disclose any private conversations they had with students. Again, the GOP posits this is a crucial part of the rights of parents, but it completely disregards why a transgender student might be out at school but need privacy from their parents, like in cases of abuse.
It’s unlikely that this pair of bills will become law. But with the GOP now in control of the House, the party has made it clear that bills like these that target LGBTQ people and cater to their most fervent supporters are at the top of their agenda. Despite the myriad issues facing the American people, the GOP is making it clear: Attacking trans people is their top priority.