Invasion of cisgender Utah girl's privacy shows danger in anti-trans laws | Opinion

·4 min read

Well, who could have predicted this? Aside from pretty much everyone.

A Utah school combed through the education history of a cisgender girl last year after some parents who couldn't accept that their kids got beat launched a transgender witch hunt. Didn't let the girl or her parents know "to keep the matter private," and instead asked her middle school and elementary school to check her enrollment records.

"The school went back to kindergarten and she'd always been a female."

That was an actual sentence uttered Wednesday night by an official with the Utah High School Activities Association, which is now tasked with being the gender police because some craven politicians have decided they can demonize transgender children – children! – for their own gain.

SPORTS NEWSLETTER: Get the latest stories and information delivered to your inbox

It does not matter that the invasion of the girl's privacy occurred before Utah's ban on transgender girls playing sports took effect July 1, or that a judge issued an injunction Friday that puts the ban on hold for now. Far from "protecting" girls, these hateful bans and the unwarranted hysteria that has sparked them are opening all girls and young women up to harassment.

The girl whose privacy was invaded was not, and will not be, a one-off. David Spatafore, the legislative representative for the UHSAA, said the organization has gotten other complaints from parents who are suspicious because "that female athlete doesn't look feminine enough." Whatever that means.

The parents who didn't protest the wave of anti-trans laws because it didn't apply to their kids, or who championed the bans smug in the idea that no cloud of suspicion could ever hang over their child, will soon realize that no one is safe from the mob.

"My goodness, we're living in this world where we've become sore losers, and we're looking for any reason why our kid lost," Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said when he was asked for his reaction Thursday. "I have a real problem with that story."

But the story isn't the problem. These bans are. They are nothing more than performative displays by right-wing politicians who see demonizing transgender children as an easy way to rile up their voting base.

When Cox vetoed the legislation in March, only to have the legislature override it, he pointed out that there were four transgender kids playing high school sports in Utah. And of those four, one was playing girls sports.

That's right. Four total, one transgender girl.

"That's what this is all about. Four kids who aren't dominating or winning trophies or taking scholarships," Cox wrote. "Four kids who are just trying to find some friends and feel like they are part of something. Four kids trying to get through each day.

"Rarely," Cox continued, "has so much fear and anger been directed at so few."

And to what end? We already know the damage these bans — or even simply the specter of them — can do to transgender children. In a survey by The Trevor Project, 85% of trans and non-binary kids say the flood of anti-trans bills across the country has had a negative impact on their mental health.

This in a population that already has a horrifyingly high suicide rate.

The injunction issued Friday stops enforcement of the ban prohibiting transgender girls from playing girls sports. But it still requires transgender girls to get approval from a state commission before they can play.

Which means there will continue to be whispers and smear campaigns against any girl who has short hair. Or broad shoulders. Or doesn't like wearing makeup.

Or, as in the Utah case, has the audacity to be better at a sport than the daughter of parents who use their children's success as a measure of their own.

"Making up allegations like that are pretty disturbing to me," Cox said.

It also was wholly predictable. Just as lawmakers who pushed ever-restrictive abortion bans are discovering, you cannot direct hate and bigotry at one group without others getting caught up in the fray.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Invasion of cisgender Utah girl's privacy shows danger in anti-trans laws