It’s not worth pretending, even for a minute, that South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem had a sudden change of heart and developed a sense of humanity that led her to reject the state’s anti-trans sports act, House Bill 1217, one of many such initiatives being pushed in Republican-run states.
Of course she didn’t. Noem returned the bill to the South Dakota House because it isn’t explicitly anti-trans enough.
The bill as written, Noem argued in a series of tweets on Friday, could have “significant unintended consequences.”
Unintended consequences? Like encouraging hate of an already marginalized group? Or damaging the mental health of teenagers already struggling with their sense of self and place in the world? Again, of course not. Those are the intended consequences of House Bill 1217. Noem, instead, is worried that people who actually cheat to gain an advantage in sports could be held accountable for their actions.
“If a male student athlete failed to make the football team, and later learned that another student on the team was taking steroids without disclosing it, the student who didn’t make the team would be entitled to sue both the school and the steroid-user for damages,” Noem wrote.
Further, Noem wanted the House to refine the bill only to apply to high schools, not colleges, because “In South Dakota, we are proud of our universities’ athletic programs, and in particular the great strides we have taken to gain national exposure and increase opportunities for our next generation over the past two decades.”
You can see how Noem almost got there, acknowledging that this bill would make South Dakota look intolerant and oppressive as the state’s universities attempt to gain national exposure. But South Dakota’s high school kids, who don’t have a choice about whether or not they go to school in South Dakota? Fuck them kids.
As the bill made its way through the legislature, the Mitchell Republic reported, “Many lawmakers acknowledged there are only few, if any, instances of transgender children competing in high school sports in South Dakota.” That’s understandable. This fall, there were 40,302 students enrolled in South Dakota public high schools. According to the 2016 report at Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, South Dakota has the fourth-lowest rate of adults identifying as trans, at 0.34 percent. But maybe trans people leave South Dakota as soon as they have an opportunity, because of the state’s open hostility. Well, the state with the highest population of trans adults is Hawaii, at 0.78 percent. At that higher percentage, there would be 314 trans kids in South Dakota high schools. Of those 314 kids, how many are athletes? And then, beyond that, how many are even out as trans, to say nothing of being on hormone therapy? Well, the people pushing the anti-trans legislation couldn’t find any, so…
Hormone therapy, by the way, is legal, which cannot be said of anabolic steroids. And the 57 South Dakota high schools that have football — sorry, that have 11-man football — are suiting up in the neighborhood of 2,000 players. Then there’s another 67 South Dakota high schools with 9-man football. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, steroid use among 12th graders in 2014 checked in at 2 percent.
Aberdeen Central High School’s football roster this year had 58 players, and a total enrollment of 1,410. Statistically, you would expect that there are a half-dozen to a dozen trans kids at the school, but again, we don’t have any evidence of any of those kids being involved in sports. Statistically, you would expect that at least one kid on the Aberdeen Central football team uses steroids. If not there, perhaps there are a couple of PED users at Brandon Valley, or O’Gorman, or Watertown.
Unlike trans participation in athletics, let alone that participation actually causing any kind of issues, there’s one very prominent example of steroid abuse in South Dakota. But it wasn’t at a high school. The late Lyle Alzado was at Yankton College when he started taking steroids, leading to an addiction that cut his life short.
Noem wants this bill rewritten to allow that history to repeat itself, while refining the power of the state to be used against trans kids. Not only trans kids, but kids like Freddie Linden, who in 2018 brought a federal suit against the South Dakota High School Activities Association to be allowed to try out for the dance team at Dakota Valley High. The SDHSAA changed its rules, allowing Linden to compete.
But what Noem likes about House Bill 1217 is that it “properly provides that females should have opportunities to play youth sports on teams comprised of females and against teams of females.”
All of this to cater to the feelings of bigots, and to exercise power to keep the marginalized in their place, which, to be fair, is the entire ethos of the modern Republican Party and the reason that she’s such a popular choice to be the GOP’s nominee for President in 2024.