House of Representatives passes trans athlete ban, bill unlikely to become law

House of Representatives approves measure to bar transgender athletes from competing

Callaghan Bluechel, staff writer

A figure running with a transgender flag. (Illustration by Mia Eshima)

On April 20, 2023, the House of Representatives passed HR-734, a bill that, if enacted, would amend Title IX to ban transgender women and girls from competing in women’s and girls’ athletic programs that receive federal funding.

The Republican-sponsored bill passed the House by a narrow 219-203 margin. It is unlikely to pass the Senate, and President Biden has already stated that he will veto the bill if it reaches his desk.

The bill’s existence reflects the presence of a national controversy over the status of trans women in sports. There have already been several state-level bans on trans women competing in women’s sports, but this is the first national ban to pass one of the houses of Congress.

The bill’s supporters argue that trans women have greater physical strength than cis women due to higher testosterone levels. Testosterone, a hormone that is naturally higher in people assigned male at birth, facilitates muscle and bone growth, especially during puberty. Those who wish to bar trans women from women’s sports thus claim that allowing trans women to compete in women’s sports is unfair to cisgender women. They point to trans women who have won sporting competitions and say that their assigned sex at birth has given them an insurmountable advantage.

The bill’s opponents argue that the threat to competitive fairness is overstated and that trans women who have transitioned and are on hormone treatments are not, by virtue of their assigned sex at birth, significantly more athletic than their cisgender counterparts. They point to trans women athletes who have competed in events and have achieved similar scores to the average cisgender competitor.

Opponents of the bill also say that the bill’s sponsors are arguing insincerely and that they are using the issue of trans women in sports as a device to propel a broader agenda of transphobic legislation and point out a variety of other anti-trans bills not associated with sports that have passed in Republican-controlled states.

As Seattle Pacific University receives federal funding, this bill would prevent trans women from joining women’s sports at SPU. The university’s athletics department provided The Falcon with the following statement about the issue.

“The SPU athletic department is working with administration from the Great Northwest Athletic Conference on this topic. In addition, we will utilize guidance from the NCAA and university leadership for any specific issues that may need to be addressed.”