Nassau County executive’s ban on trans athletes sparks outrage

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman.
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman.
Ed Shin

LGBTQ groups and leaders from Long Island and around New York State expressed outrage on Feb. 22 after Republican Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman issued an executive order barring trans athletes from playing sports in accordance with their gender identity at county-run facilities — a policy that is expected to face significant legal challenges.

Blakeman’s executive order, announced Feb. 22, stipulates that “any sports, leagues, organizations, teams, programs, or sports entities” must be designated based on the gender assigned at birth in one of three categories: “males, men, or boys,” “females, women, or girls,” or “coed or mixed.” The order states that the Nassau County Department of Parks, Recreation, & Museums is barred from issuing permits in violation of that policy. 

Using the offensive and inaccurate term “biological” to refer to gender, Blakeman specifically called out transgender girls and women in a Feb. 22 press conference, saying “there is a movement for biological males to bully their way into competing in” girls’ or women’s sports. Blakeman’s order order states that the Parks department is barred from issuing permits for sports involving trans girls, but can issue permits for sports involving trans boys and men. 

The executive order immediately drew widespread condemnation from New Yorkers who said it violates polices like the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which was signed into law by former Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2019. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s guidelines state that it is “committed to providing all students with the opportunity to participate in NYSPHSAA activities in a manner consistent with their gender identity” and points to the Dignity for All Students Act, an anti-bullying measure intended to ensure schools are free of discrimination and harassment. 

“We are profoundly disappointed in Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman’s announcement of an executive order aimed at banning transgender athletes from participating in sports teams that align with their gender identity,” David Kilmnick, president and founder of the New York LGBT Network, said in a written statement. “This discriminatory move not only undermines the principles of inclusivity and fairness but also perpetuates harmful stereotypes and exclusion.”

Kilmnick added that the attempt to ban trans athletes is “futile and legally untenable” as well as politically ill-advised. 

“Nassau residents have grown weary of division and polarization,” he added. “Instead of perpetuating harm, Blakeman should redirect his efforts towards supporting transgender youth, who are disproportionately vulnerable to bullying and violence.”

Notably, Attorney General Letitia James issued a statement saying she is exploring how she might take legal action against Blakeman.

“This executive order is transphobic and deeply dangerous,” James said in a written statement. “In New York, we have laws that protect our beautifully diverse communities from hate and discrimination of any and every kind. My office is charged with enforcing and upholding those laws, and we stand up to those who violate them and trespass on the rights of marginalized communities. We are reviewing our legal options.”

Governor Kathy Hochul issued a similar statement vowing to fight back against Blakeman’s executive order.

“There is nothing lower than trying to score cheap political points by putting a target on the backs of some of our state’s most vulnerable children,” Hochul said. “Now that the Nassau GOP’s fearmongering on immigration failed in NY-3, they’re resorting to a new divisive culture war attack: bullying trans kids. We’re proud New York has some of the nation’s strongest protections for the LGBTQ+ community and my Administration is committed to enforcing these laws.”

The order represents the latest attack on trans athletes at a time when more than two dozen states have passed laws barring trans student-athletes from participating in sports in accordance with their gender identity, according to the Movement Advancement Project. 

Elisa Crespo, the executive director of the statewide LGBTQ organization New Pride Agenda, said Blakeman’s policy contributes to a culture of violence against transgender individuals.

“Instead of working to better the lives of the people of Nassau County, the county executive has decided to waste taxpayers’ money on legislating little leagues and attempting to create a problem that does not exist,” Crespo told Gay City News. “Trans kids deserve to play in sports that align with their gender identity — full stop. Decisions like these — from self loathing politicians with an agenda — are what perpetuates the anti-trans violence that has become all too familiar to us.”

Assemblymember Gina Sillitti, who represents Long Island’s 16th District, said, “Let’s be perfectly clear, Bruce Blakeman is not issuing this executive order to protect anyone. He is issuing an unnecessary executive order to grab headlines that I fear could lead to a culture of hate towards transgender children.”

Out gay Manhattan State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal said he was disturbed to learn about Blakeman’s executive order, which he described as wrong, illegal, and dangerous.

“Discriminatory policies like this one perpetuate false stereotypes that trans women are somehow not really women, and can lead to violence against trans and gender non-conforming children, as we just saw with Nex Benedict’s tragic death in Oklahoma,” Hoylman-Sigal, who represents the 47th District, told Gay City News. “I hope that Nassau County will quickly reverse this unjust policy.”

Another out state lawmaker, Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas of the 34th District in Queens, said, “This is incredibly harmful to our students and a disgusting move by the Nassau County exec. It’s also why we passed GENDA. It will not stand. We will see to it that it won’t.”

Out gay coach Anthony Nicodemo, a past Gay City News Impact Award honoree, said in a post on X that the New York State Public High School Athletic Association should avoid Nassau County.

“Elected officials [are] looking to hurt kids for political points,” Nicodemo wrote. “[There is] no question that the New York State Education Department and Governor Kathy Hochul will step in and stop this discrimination.”

In a written statement, Nassau County Legislative Minority Leader Delia DeRiggi accused Blakeman of misleading constituents.

“Nassau County residents were falsely promised tax cuts and a fairer property assessment system from this county executive,” DeRiggi said. “Instead they received a county executive who has been more interested in self promotion by spending public money on private golf outings, swanky galas, and unrelated press conferences — such as today’s focus on legislating little leagues, which has nothing to do with his responsibilities.”

Amanda Babine, the executive director of the statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality New York, said Blakeman “should be ashamed of himself” for putting forth a policy that “further disadvantages transgender youth.”  

“As New Yorkers, we will not stand for this hate and not only condemn this executive order but will work to remove Bruce Blakeman from his position,” Babine told Gay City News.

The non-profit Athlete Ally, which is headquartered in New York City and works to end homophobia and transphobia in sports, also ripped Blakeman’s executive order.

“We believe every young kid should have access to the transformative power of sport,” Joanna Hoffman, Athlete Ally’s communications director, told Gay City News. “We can and should be working together to address the real, documented threats to girls’ sports, including inequitable resources, a lack of funding, and rampant sexual abuse. Banning transgender girls does nothing to address these issues; instead, it furthers abuse and discrimination, and fosters an environment where all girls could be under scrutiny and attack for not fitting a specific version of what a girl ‘should’ look like.”

Hoffman added: “At the highest level of sport, the International Olympic Committee affirms that simply being transgender does not give an athlete an advantage, and that inclusion and non-discrimination should be at the core of any sport policy. No one transitions to win at sport. They do so in order to live as their authentic self.”

Among other groups, the New York Civil Liberties Union said in a post on X that the executive order “violates New York law.”