Gordon Monson: Utah Legislature played a political game while transgender athletes suffered

HB11 won’t protect girls sports — just lawmakers’ voter bases, The Tribune columnist writes.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) More than a thousand protesters gather on the steps of the Capitol, in support of transgender youth, on Thursday, March 24, 2022.

It’s been said by thousands of others, but it needs to be said again … and again … and again, until politics in this state become more balanced, more enlightened, more caring, more progressive, less maniacal.

What the Utah Legislature did by ramming House Bill 11 through at the last hour, without proper process, then overriding a sensible veto by Gov. Spencer Cox, who aimed to err, if he erred at all, on the side of caring and kindness, as that body banned transgender students from playing high school sports was …

A political game.


The most frightening thing of all comes from the folks who claim the Legislature was merely representing the will of the people here with that ban. I love Utah, but, good lord, this can be at times an awful weird, harsh, bullying place.

Look, I’m far from perfect, just like you. But this was purposeful bullying, based in self-aggrandizement.

What the passage/override in this case really was is two things: 1) A twisted proclamation reinforcing a line of thinking from some in the predominant religion in this state, although there are plenty of members of that church who hate what the Legislature did with HB11; and 2) A move by legislators to solidify their conservative base, so as to better ensure their ability to be re-elected in a state where Republicans so lopsidedly rule.



Those who claim they were protecting girls’ prep sports with their vote are using that excuse to hide behind their real motivations — a mix of items 1 and 2.

Sometimes when you look at what lawmakers do, supposed leaders in our community, people who are charged not just with looking out for the greater good, but also to protect those who might — and often do — find themselves in the minority, you wonder why common sense doesn’t hold greater sway.

The Utah Way too often becomes the way of protecting those who already are in power and kicking aside those who could use more representation and a little help.

The Legislature powered this bill and its subsequent override through in spite of the fact that there currently is one transgender girl competing in Utah high school sports.


And that body did it with the hysteria that boys are going to swamp girls’ sports, boys who can’t compete with boys are going to go to all the trouble of changing their gender so they can fill up their trophy case, so they can win championships, so they can steal away all the opportunity girls deserve.

What a crock this is.

Rather than have the Legislature cram a bad bill down the throats of all Utahns, how about this — put it to a vote among student-athletes who were born female. Let them have a say. Chances are, they don’t want the Legislature’s so-called protection. They want to compete against whoever identifies as a girl, whoever is in front of them on the field, on the court, on the diamond, on the pitch.

I had five daughters play high school sports in Utah, three of whom were state champions in individual sports and all of whom were all-state athletes, three of whom chose to play college sports and two more who could have, had they desired.

I asked them how they would have felt to lose to a transgender girl in high school. Not one of them said they would have protested. One of them said it would have been, to quote her, “an honor.”

The reason is because they care more about the wellbeing of a marginalized part of our community than they do about the other aspects of this issue that are getting so much attention from those who say they are so concerned about protecting girls.

The governor laid out the sad statistics about the suicide rate among transgender kids. Too many Utah families have lived through those tragedies. If there are more because of this bill, shame on every legislator who voted for it, who earned more of a power base for it, who got a few more votes in their next election.

But the courts will find this whole mess unconstitutional, and a stack of cash will go to defending it and to seeing it put to rest. Money that might have been spent in far more productive ways.

If Salt Lake City were to lose the coming NBA All-Star Game, as well as other meaningful events, on account of this latest action by the Legislature, won’t that be a kick to the gut.

This column won’t change a thing, and I know that. Just like Spencer Cox’s veto changed nothing. Those hellbent on going after a handful of kids with a proclamation that was completely unnecessary, all to their own advantage, is what it is.

You know what it is.



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