Arizona Legislature Passes Bills Outlawing Gender Affirming Practices and Participation of Transgender Athletes

The troubling questions and potential impacts of anti-transgender legislation.


Gov. Doug Ducey signed an overhaul of bills banning transgender girls from competing in women’s sports and abortion procedures after 15 weeks into pregnancy. | AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File

Last Wednesday, March 30th, 2022, Arizona governor Doug Ducey signed two bills imposing restrictions on those seeking gender-affirming care and barring transgender women from participating in school sports teams that align with their gender identity. In a signing letter, Ducey claims that the legislation signed was to “protect participation and fairness for female athletes, and to ensure that individuals undergoing irreversible gender reassignment surgery are of adult age.”  Arizona has now joined the growing list of republican-led states, like Florida, Idaho, and Texas, that are looking to put restrictions on what transgender people can and can’t do.

Senate Bill 1103 prohibits individuals under the age of 18 from undergoing permanent gender-affirming care. “The reason is simple, and common sense,” Ducey writes. “This is a decision that will dramatically affect the rest of an individual’s life.” Originally the bill would have outlawed all forms of treatment regarding gender affirmation, like hormone therapy and puberty blockers, but was reduced to only banning permanent gender reassignment operations. Though this bill makes some exceptions for individuals born intersex, someone who is born with chromosomal or genital qualities that do not fit the binary notions of “male” or “female”. Critics of the bill believe that it is a severe violation of the rights of transgender parents and their children.

Protesters block the street in front of the Supreme Court on Oct. 8, 2019, in Washington. | Caroline Brehman / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images file

Governor Ducey also signed Senate Bill 1165, which bans male-to-female transgender athletes from participating in female intramural or interscholastic sports teams. The ban not only applies to transgender athletes at the elementary and high school levels but also to athletes at college and university levels. The law does not hold any restrictions against female-to-male transgender individuals who want to participate in male sports teams stating that “This section does not restrict the eligibility of any student to participate in any interscholastic or intramural athletic team or port designed as being for males.” Many Republicans believe that laws like this will protect the integrity of women’s sports, claiming that transgender women have an unfair advantage.  In his signing letter, Ducey claims that “This legislation simply ensures that the girls who have dedicated themselves to their sport don’t miss out on hard-earned opportunities.” This bill is not a first of its kind. Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt signed the “Save Women’s Sports Act” on March 30th as well, saying “When it comes to sports and athletics, girls should compete against girls.” There are now a total of 13 states with laws that prevent transgender students from participating in sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Lately, we have been seeing an aggressive accumulation of anti-LGBTQ+ movements in the United States. The foreseeable impacts that this could have on transgender communities are damaging.

A study was done by the Harvard School of Public Health shows that a large percentage of transgender youth represent a “vulnerable population” that is at risk of negative mental health outcomes. The study examined 180 transgender patients of ages 12 to 29 compared to non-transgender patients of the same age range. The results concluded that 50% of the transgender youths were at risk of being diagnosed with depression compared to their cis-gendered peers who were only 20% at risk. In an interview with Mars Wood, a transgender athlete at Youngker High School, he was asked how he felt about this statistic. “It is troublesome, especially if you don’t have people that support you”. Mars is a senior at Youngker High School and the first transgender athlete to compete on Youngker’s Boys Volleyball team. Mars’s commitment and passion for sports gives representation to many other transgender athletes at Youngker. When asked about hopes for transgender athletes in the future, Wood responded by saying, “I hope that it becomes easier because for me it took three of four months to even be allowed on the team.” Despite this, Mars expresses his satisfaction with the acceptance and openness of his teammates at Youngker. Mars concludes his statement by saying, “I don’t think that sports should have a gender. It’s a sport; you’re playing with a ball.” This leaves us with the question: What is causing this disparity between transgender and cisgender youths?

People protest outside a Netflix office in Los Angeles during a walkout over a recent comedy special by Dave Chappelle. The special has been criticized for anti-transgender comments and comes at a time when some members of the trans community are under fire by coverage in the media. | Damian Dovarganes/The Associated Press)

Research shows that a disproportionate amount of hate crimes are caused by anti-transgender motivations. According to the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics, hate crimes against transgender individuals have risen by about 84.8%  from 2013 to 2019. However, these numbers may not be entirely accurate. Transgender victims of hate crimes may feel that they are voiceless in a society that imposes various restrictions on their lives and choose to be silent. If we take into account the number of possible unreported hate crimes against transgender individuals, this number could become even more disheartening. One could theorize that the frequency of depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies in the transgender community is exacerbated by the regularity of hate crimes and the onslaught of legislation that marginalize them.