I remember how I felt when I played soccer for the first time. Long before I was winning World Cup matches, I was trying to keep up with my brother. Soccer has been a part of my life since I was 4 years old. I spent hours outside working to perfect that next move — I wanted to be the best.
Being able to play sports as a child shaped my life’s path. It taught me so much more than is seen on the field and brought me so much joy. Every child deserves to have that experience. That’s why I believe that all kids, including transgender youth, should be able to participate in sports they love.
These bills are attempting to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Transgender kids want the opportunity to play sports for the same reasons other kids do: to be a part of a team where they feel like they belong. Proponents of these bills argue that they are protecting women. As a woman who has played sports my whole life, I know that the threats to women’s and girls’ sports are lack of funding, resources and media coverage; sexual harassment; and unequal pay.
I know what it feels like to be singled out and treated differently. No one should be treated unfairly because of who they are — and that is especially true of kids. Adults can’t pretend that we care about the well-being of children while actively creating environments that cause serious harm to them. We can’t make demands for a false sense of fairness while ignoring the actual needs of women and girls.
You may not know that a person in your life is trans — you may not be aware of the fullest self within your co-worker, friend, relative or even the child playing in your living room. Trans people contribute meaningfully to our society: our schools, neighborhoods, communities and families. Trans people deserve dignity, respect and opportunity. These bills are an attack on the humanity and belonging of trans people, and that’s why this issue is important to me as a member of the LGBTQ community.
For some, discrimination is the point. But we can celebrate all girls and women in sports while ensuring trans people aren’t discriminated against. That is why all women must stand up and demand that exclusion is not done in our name.
The value of participating in sports is well-documented. Transgender kids deserve the same chances to enjoy sports; to gain confidence, self-respect and leadership skills; and to learn what it means to be part of a team. When we tell transgender girls that they can’t play girls’ sports — or transgender boys that they can’t play boys’ sports — they miss out on these important experiences and opportunities. And we lose the right to say we care about children.
Discrimination hurts everyone. We’re stronger as teams, and as a country, when all people who love sports have a chance to have their lives changed for the better, just like I did.
I want every transgender kid out there to know that they can live their dreams and be true to who they are. For them to realize those dreams, they need to be allowed to play.