The state of Mississippi is on the verge of banning transgender athletes from women's sports at state schools and universities, amid a rush of similar such proposed legislation around the US.
The state's house of representatives joined the state senate's recent approval of Senate Bill 2536, which now needs only the signature of Gov. Tate Reeves to become law.
Reeves has previously expressed anti-trans attitudes and was expected to approve the bill, according to the Associated Press.
Mississippi was one of at least 20 states where conservative lawmakers aggressively pursued anti-trans legislation early in 2021. Several others have similar bills making their way through state houses.
The discriminatory bills put the states at odds with the federal government, after President Biden signed an executive order banning discrimination based on gender identity, including in school sports, on his first day in office.
Biden's order was seen as a reversal of the policies of his predecessor, President Trump, who enacted what critics said amounted to a renewal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding transgender military members.
While supporters of the school sports bills say they are necessary to level the playing field for girls who could potentially compete against athletes who were born biologically male, such cases are extremely rare.
Many of the sponsors of such bills can't even cite cases of transgender athletes competing, let alone dominating, in their own states, according to an Associated Press survey.
Several of the sponsors cited a high-profile case of transgender high school athletes in Connecticut, where two trans girls won a combined 15 races in track and field competitions. The Department of Education under Trump later ruled against the trans athletes, saying that the state's trans-inclusive policies violated the Title IX rights of female athletes.
If some cases, in states that already have laws pertaining to trans athletes, anti-trans legislation has sometimes backfired. For example in Texas, where athletes must compete against the gender identified on their birth certificate, a trans boy won girl's state wrestling titles in consecutive years in 2017 and '18, after he was not allowed to compete against boys.
Only a small fraction of Americans -- 1.6 million people -- identified as transgender as of five years ago, the article said, citing data from a UCLA Law School think tank.
With so few notable cases of prominent transgender athletes, critics say the aim of the bill is not only to influence sports policy, but more insidiously as a means to deny young trans people the health care treatments specific to their needs.
“This is not about sports,” said Chase Strangio, a transgender-rights attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. ”It’s a way to attack trans people.”
In New Jersey, which has a relatively trans-inclusive policy, a 14-year-old trans girl who plays on her school's field hockey team told the outlet that she was concerned for the fate of trans kids in states like Mississippi.
“I know what it’s like to have my gender questioned,” said the teen, identified as Rebekah. “It’s invasive, embarrassing. I don’t want others to go through that.”