LINCOLN As Nebraska lawmakers consider whether to adopt a bill next year that would regulate which restrooms and sports teams transgender youth can use, transgender health care and exercise science professionals are considering the proposal and its perspectives.
Bill 575Proposed by State Senator Kathleen Kauth of Omaha, it would define group school bathrooms, locker rooms and sports teams as men’s or women’s and require students to use the facilities or play on teams based on their sex at birth.
Some argue that lawmakers don’t need to pass a law because of a Nebraska Association of School Activities policy already in place governing trans participation for member schools. A committee must approve an application from trans students before participating based on their gender identity.
Policy goals include balancing equal opportunity, student physical safety, competitive fairness, and personal privacy.
Trans female students must also demonstrate through medical examinations and physiological tests that they possess no physical or physiological advantages over genetic females of the same age group. This includes bone structure, muscle mass and testosterone hormone levels.
LB 575 would effectively nullify that policy and require participation based on sex at birth.
Well-meaning but with flaws
Dr. Greg Brown, who has a PhD. in the biological basis of human health and performance and is a professor of exercise science at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, said the NSAA Gender Participation Policy is well-intentioned to protect the safety, fairness and integrity of women’s sports for female athletes.
And she really goes out of her way to ensure that a trans girl has no sex-based advantage, Brown said.
According to the NSAA, five Nebraska students between 2017 and January 2023 used the policy to play games on their gender identity.
However, Brown said, there is no biotest to detect whether someone is transgender, and the line blurs for women’s sports.
Smaller, less muscular, or less talented males are typically not allowed in women’s sports. Should they then be allowed in women’s sports based on a transgender identity and testosterone suppression? Brown asked in an email.
Brown, while testify in support of LB 575, told the Nebraskas Education Committee that he wrote a brief for the Alliance Defending Freedom and was an expert witness and volunteer for the organization.
Alliance in defense of freedoma legal organization rooted in faith, it has been behind major cases involving abortion and LGBTQ rights but deny anti-LGBT or hate labels placed on it by Southern Poverty Law Center.
Dr. Alex Dworak of OneWorld Community Health Centers, which provides trans health care, said trans girls targeted in bills like LB 575 start low and slow down when prescribed testosterone.
At any one time, they will have both less testosterone and less estrogen in their body than an equivalent person of the same age, Dworak said. And therefore, if anything, they will be at a competitive disadvantage.
Dworak said trans people face heightened discrimination that causes stress and harms their health, further compounding what he said was a disadvantage.
To level the playing field, we should subject all cis girls to this, Dworak said, noting that there is also sexism against cis women.
He said young people who are transitioning would meet with their doctors regularly and that their hormones or physiological characteristics would be monitored more regularly than cisgender youth.
Dworak said that sport brings social and physical health benefits and emphasizes exercise as a doctor.
Differences based on gender
Brown, however, said that there are sex-based differences, even among children, that indicate body height and lean body mass. These are not reversed with blockers or hormones.
Even if puberty blockers and/or cross-sex hormones are started before puberty, we simply can’t tell (based on published research) how much the male model’s growth in height or muscle mass will be impaired, he said.
Brown said some physiological tests may be effort-based, allowing for some control over test outcome, or they may be compromised by dehydration or fatigue.
Dworak said these tests are a regular part of exams.
Brown said that during an annual At the meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, she presented research showing that boys aged 7-8 run 3-5% faster and jump higher and further than girls in the same age group of age. The same, she said, applies to boys and girls aged 9 to 10. Another group of researchers, from another university, presented similar data and conclusions.
Brown said data from Australia show a 10-year-old boy in the 95th percentile for aerobic fitness will run 1.6 kilometers per hour faster than girls ages 10 to 17 in the same percentile for their age.
There is considerable evidence that there are male sex-based athletic advantages even before puberty, so there is really no good reason to entertain the idea that puberty blockers and/or cross-sex hormones will eliminate the athletic advantages that males have. males possess relative to similarly aged, gifted, and trained females, Brown said.
Dworak said that LB 575 and other similar nationwide proposals target only trans youth, stigmatizing them and limiting participation without regard to individual or medical nuances.
The notion that people transition just for a purported advantage in sports, he said, is utterly preposterous because it could include the stress of coming out, seeking medical treatment, changing hormones, and being subjected to harassment or discrimination.
Would somebody do all this for a fucking trophy from, like, sixth grade softball? said Dworak. I mean, it’s absurd.
It’s just incredibly stupid and it’s disrespectful to the gravity of the debate that people keep bringing it up, yet they do, Dworak added.
Dworak said if lawmakers wanted to pursue total equity, it would be nearly impossible because every child has different strengths and weaknesses.
This is a solution to something that’s not a problem that’s causing harm without causing any benefit, Dworak said. It’s all to score political points.
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