Life / Politics

40 Athletes Just Signed a Letter Opposing a Federal Anti-Trans Sports Ban

40 Athletes Just Signed a Letter Opposing a Federal Anti-Trans Sports Ban

Instead of focusing on the national teacher shortage, gun violence in classrooms, or any of the other very real and horrifying issues plaguing the country’s school systems, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce has been discussing a bill called H.R.734, which was introduced in February. This wrongheaded, discriminatory bill would ban trans children from playing on the teams that match their gender. This week, 40 athletes who play in professional leagues or compete in the Olympic or Paralympic Games signed a letter, dated April 10, that opposes the bill. Signatories include soccer star Megan Rapinoe and runners CeCe Telfer and Chris Mosier, the founder of TransAthlete.com.The letter, published by Athlete Ally, exposes the bill for what it is: bigoted and cowardly. “We, the undersigned athletes, believe that every child deserves to have their life changed for the better by being able to participate in the sport that they love,” the letter says. “Right now, transgender and intersex human rights are under attack, with politicians…pushing forward H.R.734.” Many trans children are already discriminated against in schools daily—with teachers refusing to use their preferred names and pronouns or school staff threatening to out them to their families—and the focus on pushing them out of sports is only the latest assault on their rights. As of March, there were 56 bills being considered nationwide that would prevent trans kids from playing on sports teams, as SELF previously reported.According to the Human Rights Campaign, the bill has been backed by an anti-LGBTQ+ organization called Alliance Defending Freedom, which is a designated hate group by various public policy and legal institutions and other conservative organizations. The bill’s proponents seek to exclude trans people from activities that are integral to childhood development, as well as monitor everyone’s bodies, especially those of young girls.Rapinoe has been protesting the bill on Twitter since the House committee met to discuss it in early March. “Call your Congressional rep today to say women’s sports need protection from unequal pay, sexual abuse & lack of resources, NOT from trans kids,” Rapinoe tweeted recently.The letter stressed that, if passed, H.R.734 will rob kids of a normal childhood experience that everyone is entitled to—and, ultimately, have a domino effect on society more broadly. “The policing of who can and cannot play school sports will very likely lead to the policing of the bodies of all girls, including cisgender girls,” the athletes wrote. At the end of the letter, they urged lawmakers to oppose it: “Our deepest hope is that transgender and intersex kids will never have to feel the isolation, exclusion, and othering that H.R.734 is seeking to enshrine into law.” The authors lay bare the dangerous reality being considered: that H.R.734 will legalize transphobia and codify the exclusion of trans students in their communities.Related:

‘Devastated and Angered’: Pediatricians Are Fed Up With the Gun Violence Crisis Killing Our Kids

‘Devastated and Angered’: Pediatricians Are Fed Up With the Gun Violence Crisis Killing Our Kids

Among the most heartbreaking aspects of Monday’s mass shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee—which left three children and three adults dead—was the familiarity of it. Watching the news unfold, I was reminded of the day, less than a year ago, when 21 people were killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The updates that popped up on my phone screen caused the same mix of fear and rage to take over my thoughts.Because of the regularity of gun violence in the US, some health authorities, including the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), refer to it as an “epidemic”—and for good reason: Nearly 50,000 people in the US died of gun violence in 2021, the latest year for which data is available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Tragically, gun violence takes a massive toll on America’s young people. According to data from Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates for sensible gun laws, 4.6 million children live in homes where at least one gun is loaded and unlocked; approximately 3 million children witness gun violence each year; and the firearm suicide rate among children has skyrocketed by 66% within the last decade.However alarming these stats might sound to those of us who don’t work with children, they are figures that America’s pediatricians are all too aware of. “Like almost every pediatrician I know, I’m despondent and want action,” Scott Hadland, MD, chief of adolescent medicine at Mass General Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, tells SELF. Lois Lee, MD, a senior associate in pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School, echoes this feeling. “As a doctor—especially one who takes care of kids—I feel both devastated and angered,” Dr. Lee tells SELF.Below, they weigh in on three consequences of America’s gun violence epidemic for children—and how these may continue to play out until sensible gun laws are passed.Mass shootings leave long-lasting wounds, both physically and emotionally.Gun violence is a unique public health problem in the way that it affects—and traumatizes—everyone, not just those who are harmed or killed by firearms, explains Dr. Lee, who authored the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) policy statement on gun violence. “Firearm deaths leave lasting emotional scars on families and communities in ways other diseases don’t,” she says.Among other things, people who survive school shootings can experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acute stress disorder, depression, substance use disorders, and debilitating anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).There’s no telling when—or even if—these will ease as a child who’s experienced gun violence grows older, Dr. Hadland says: “I care for patients who were shot as children, but survived, and [they] live with lifelong injuries and emotional trauma.”In the US, more children are dying by homicide and suicide.Since 2017, guns have been responsible for more deaths among children than anything else, according to the AAP policy statement. Before that, car accidents were the leading cause. (For context: In 2021, gun violence killed more children than cancer and poisonings combined, according to Everytown.)

Florida Republicans Are Trying to Ban Kids From Talking About Their Periods at School

Florida Republicans Are Trying to Ban Kids From Talking About Their Periods at School

Florida lawmakers are considering a bill that would outlaw certain conversations about health and wellness for children in fifth grade and below, including discussions about periods. Constituents recently found out just how alarmingly restrictive it could be.A viral video of Florida state representatives discussing House Bill 1069—which would limit all instruction around sex to grades 6 through 12—was taken last Wednesday and shows Representative Ashley Gantt asking Representative Stan McClain, a proponent of the bill, about what it would mean, realistically, for teachers and students.“Does the bill prohibit conversations about menstrual cycles? Because we know that typically [menstruation begins] between 10 and 15. So if little girls experience their menstrual cycle in fifth grade or fourth grade, will that prohibit conversations for them, since they are in a grade lower than sixth grade?” Gantt asks. McClain replies, “It would.”Restricting conversations around menstruation, a normal bodily process, would be incredibly damaging, especially now: Post-Roe, parents, educators, health care workers, and others who work with children and young adults should be overcommunicating about the function of menstruation, Taraneh Shirazian, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn at NYU Langone, tells SELF. “Menstruation is a normal biologic change, and girls and boys should understand it,” she says. “[If you censor conversations around it], you’re going to set up a big problem for young [people] around the issues of pregnancy and family planning.”As Gantt pointed out, simplifying menstruation to a process that’s supposed to start during or after sixth grade will automatically isolate people for whom it starts earlier. “The nine-year-old [who gets their first period] is going to feel stigmatized and alone going to school,” Dr. Shirazian says. And many people start menstruating before sixth grade (at which point students are usually 11 to 12 years old). According to data from the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), up to 10% of girls in the US begin to get their periods by age 10.Regardless of age, implementing this law would send the message that girls’ bodies are unspeakable—which will likely have long-term consequences, Jennifer Lincoln, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn and executive director of Mayday Health, a health education nonprofit, tells SELF. “Banning educators from discussing normal and physiological processes like menstruation enrages me as an ob-gyn. We are basically telling menstruators that we can’t talk about what’s happening to their bodies, which implies that it is shameful, dirty, and unnatural,” Dr. Lincoln says. “This sets the stage for a lot of misunderstanding and psychological trauma that will need to be undone. How these legislators sleep at night is incomprehensible to me.”House Bill 1069 would indirectly teach school-age girls that their bodies are somehow controversial when compared with boys’ bodies, Dr. Shirazian explains: “Once you start to set up that dichotomy, we can’t empower girls.” In some parts of the world, this stigmatization comes at a huge cost, she adds: “Globally, some girls are not going to school” because of societal shame attached to starting their periods.

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