An anti-transgender measure that is making its way through the Tennessee legislature has a new backer: Gov. Bill Lee.
Talking to reporters Wednesday, Lee spoke against transgender athletes, saying that he thinks their participation would put back in place a glass ceiling for women’s participation in middle and high school sports.
“I do believe that transgenders participating in women’s sports will destroy women’s sports,” Lee said.
The measure (HB3/SB228) would require transgender youth to play on sports teams that match the sex assigned at birth.
The sponsors of the bill have not explained how many transgender athletes are in the state. Most of the testimony provided by legislators was anecdotal.
According to a 2019 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2% of high school students identify as transgender. Those students were more like than their cisgender peers to experience substance use and be at risk of suicide.
Lee’s comments quickly received pushback from LGBTQ activists and Tennessee Democrats.
In a tweet Wednesday, Sen. Heidi Campbell, D-Nashville, said Lee’s comments were “hurtful.”
“There have been zero incidents of this being an issue,” Campbell said. “This is just hate legislation, and to double down with an insult to our LGBTQ community is unnecessary.”
Still, the measure is likely to pass as it has the support of many Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly.
On Tuesday, the House K-12 Subcommittee heard the legislation. Rep. Michele Carringer, R-Knoxville, said she supported the bill because “we don’t need any more stuff confusing our children.”
Meanwhile, only one person testified during the hearing. That was Ally Chapman, the mother of a transgender child. She said the rule would be discriminatory and harmful to the transgender and gender-diverse community.
“Not only does this discriminatory bill undermine their ability to safely belong to their community, it essentially excludes them from school and sports participation,” Chapman said.