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Guide: Talking About Transgender Youth Participation In Sports

Young people learn many important life lessons in sports: leadership, confidence, self-respect, self-discipline, what it means to be part of a team, and much more. Sports and athletics are an important part of education—something no child should be denied simply because of who they are.

Anti-LGBTQ opponents have been introducing legislation seeking to ban transgender youth from participating in K-12 school sports. They have also argued that LGBTQ people should be denied nondiscrimination protections at the federal and state levels because these protections would allow transgender youth to participate in sports.

This guide provides approaches for elevating conversations about sports participation, addressing unfamiliarity and concerns, and showing why banning kids from the educational benefits of athletics is harmful both to transgender youth and to all young people.

Approach #1: Emphasize shared values

Start by elevating the values of school sports—teamwork, sportsmanship, leadership, self-respect, self-discipline, relationship-building, perseverance, fitness and more— that are at the center of this conversation. These lifelong benefits and educational priorities are what make sports so important to young people.

Approach #2: Help people navigate their unfamiliarity and concerns 

In their attempts to create statewide bans on transgender youth in sports, anti-LGBTQ opponents seek to turn people against transgender youth—arguing that transgender girls must not be allowed to participate in sports with other girls, or that transgender boys must not be allowed to participate with other boys. This can result in fear-based reactions from conflicted audiences, which we can help them navigate.

Start with an acknowledgment of the initial unfamiliarity many people have when it comes to transgender youth. This allows people to focus less on their own discomfort by helping them realize that the unfamiliarity they may feel is normal, and that others may feel the same.