Anti-trans sports bill introduced in Albany, sparking outrage

State Senator George Borrello (center) is the lead sponsor of the anti-trans sports bill in the upper chamber.
State Senator George Borrello (center) is the lead sponsor of the anti-trans sports bill in the upper chamber.
NY Senate Media Services

LGBTQ advocates from across New York State slammed Republican lawmakers in a joint open letter on April 26 in response to the introduction of an anti-trans sports bill that would bar trans athletes from participating in girls’ sports.

State Assemblymember Andy Goodell and State Senator George Borrello — who both represent districts in western New York — are the GOP lead sponsors of a bill (S6259/A6124) that would ban public or private schools from allowing anyone assigned male at birth to participate in girls’ sports from grades seven through twelve. 

The bill is destined to fail in New York, where Democrats control both chambers of the State Legislature under a Democratic governor, but it represents the latest legislative attack on transgender and non-binary student-athletes at a time when dozens of states have emerged as hotbeds of transphobic efforts to restrict trans athletes and curtail lifesaving gender-affirming care.

“For a grown adult to wield the extraordinary power of his elected office to bully trans kids is absolutely disgusting,” out gay State Senator Jabari Brisport of Brooklyn told Gay City News on April 26.

LGBTQ leaders said in the letter that they were “appalled” to learn the bill was even introduced in New York State. 

“Now our community is disheartened that Republicans have made a direct attack on our transgender and non-binary youth,” the letter stated. “They are not the majority and are using transgender people to push their right-wing agenda. We will not stand for that here in New York!”

The letter, which was signed by organizations ranging from the Caribbean Equality Project to the Oneonta-based Otsego Pride Alliance, called on members of the State Legislature to issue a public statement supporting trans and gender non-conforming youth. Elected officials, non-profit leaders, and activists also signed the letter.

“Transgender children vary in athletic ability, just as other youth do,” the letter noted. “There is no evidence to support claims that allowing transgender student athletes to play on the team that fits their gender identity would affect the fairness of the sport or competition.”

The letter also intended to redirect attention to LGBTQ legislative priorities in the state, including a bill requiring schools to develop policies to treat students in accordance with their gender identities or expressions — including at sporting events. 

The letter goes on to advocate for a safe haven bill led by two out state lawmakers — State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal of Manhattan and Assemblymember Harry Bronson of Rochester — that would protect trans youth or families from out-of-state subpoenas. The last priority on the list asks for more funding for the Lorena Borjas Transgender and Gender Non-Binary Wellness and Equity Fund, which delivers funding for trans-led organizations in the state.

The bill’s lead sponsors did not immediately respond to a request for comment on April 26. They also did not answer questions asking for specific examples of how barring trans athletes would, as the bill states, “protect” sports from “unfair competition.”

“New Pride Agenda condemns the anti-Trans sports bill introduced in New York,” Elisa Crespo, who leads the statewide LGBTQ organization, told Gay City News on April 26, one day after community members flocked to Albany for a TGNCNBI advocacy day. “The bill is based on fear mongering, not facts. It flies in the face of our values and history as New Yorkers, and more importantly, it’s dead on arrival.”

The transphobic legislative proposal in New York coincides with a parallel campaign by GOP members of the US House of Representatives, which passed an anti-trans bill on April 20. Like the bill in New York, the federal anti-trans sports bill also has no chance of passing the upper chamber. At the same time, the Biden administration has proposed a rule stipulating that a categorical exclusion of all trans girls or women from sports teams violates Title IX, but the policy allows schools to “limit or deny a student’s eligibility to participate on a male or female team consistent with their gender identity” in accordance with outlined criteria. 

That is not, however, stopping Republicans in New York from fanning the flames of transphobia. Congressmember Nicole Malliotakis of Staten Island and Brooklyn sent out a fundraising email on April 25 complaining that “women’s sports are under attack by woke politicians who believe that it’s fair for biological males to compete against women.” She called on her supporters to donate up to $250 or more and asked them to “stand with us to support women’s sports and female athletes.”

Advocates sought to push back against that kind of rhetoric with their joint letter, which was signed by out elected officials including Brisport and Hoylman-Sigal; Assemblymembers Jessica González-Rojas of Queens and Tony Simone of Manhattan; and several out district leaders, including Melissa Sklarz and Émilia Decaudin of Queens — the first two out trans district leaders in New York City.

Athlete Ally, a national organization for LGBTQ inclusion in sports, denounced the legislation in a written statement to Gay City News.

“We are dismayed by the growing onslaught of bills attempting to ban transgender girls and women from sports,” said Athlete Ally spokesperson Joanna Hoffman. “We know from data collected by the Center for American Progress that states with transgender-inclusive school athletic policies have stronger participation rates for all girls. Bills like this one do absolutely nothing to protect girls and women from what experts have identified as the real, documented threats to girls and women’s sports: unequal pay, sexual abuse and harassment, inequitable resources, among others.”

The other organizations signing on to the letter include Equality New York, Albany Damien Center, Brooklyn Community Pride Center, Decriminalize Sex Work, Drag Out the Vote, Gender Equality New York, Haus of EnCore Ministries, Hudson Valley Stonewall Democrats, Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent, Local 2110 UAW, Make the Road NY, Pride Center of the Capital Region, Princess Janae Place, Rockland County Pride, Rooted Theater Company, SAGE, the LGBT Community Center, and the LOFT LGBTQ+ Community Center.