Denver, CO – On February 13th, HB23-1098, an anti-transgender sports ban, was defeated in the House State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee after nearly 2 hours of testimony. One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) Coloradans and their families, released the following statements:

“Today we sent a strong reminder to the supporters of these harmful bills that Coloradans will not stand for discrimination,” said Nadine Bridges, MSW (she/her), One Colorado Executive Director. “Around our state and our nation, we are seeing attacks against our community, particularly targeting transgender, gender expansive, and nonbinary people. While One Colorado and other organizations have worked incredibly hard to make Colorado a leader for LGBTQ+ rights and protections, we know we have much more to do. The defeat of HB23-1098 is an important reminder that we must continue to push back against those who want to see the LGBTQ+ community erased. We should celebrate our victory in defeating this bill and let it strengthen our continued efforts to create a fair and just Colorado.”  

“This bill further stigmatizes and discriminates against LGBTQIA+ people,” said Rep. Kyle Brown (HD-12). “It’s my belief that we need to support our kids. This doesn’t do that. This doesn’t support our kids and their ability to participate as their authentic selves. It’s simply wrong for Colorado.” 

“Trans kids should have the right to participate in school sports as who they are. High school sports are not just about winning or being the best,” said Sammy (they/them), GSA Leader and high school student-athlete. “Through my experience in sports, I have learned how to be tough and work for my goals, how we are all stronger together as a team, and how I can work to improve myself in the world day by day.”

“It’s hard to explain queer joy to someone who has never lived it,” said Marilynn (she/her/hers), GSA Leader and high school student. “This deeply misguided bill would take away transgender athletes’ joy, cut off trans people from communities that give them life saving support. Especially when we are considering policies that will have an effect on children, we must be guided by empathy and love.”

“A team is a place for everyone to come together,” said Brayden (he/him), GSA Leader and high school student-athlete. “A team is not a place for barriers, a team is not a place for hate, a team is not a place for discrimination, homophobia, or transphobia.”

“Legislation like this harms the health of transgender and gender expansive children and adolescents in two distinct ways: subjecting trans youth to government sanctioned stigma and discrimination, and denying access to educational activities and the social, emotional, and physical health benefits of such activities,” said Dr. Jax Gonzalez (they/them), OASOS Program Manager, Boulder County Public Health. “The science is clear: these bills do not demonstratively benefit cisgender children, and they significantly harm already vulnerable trangender children.”

“HB-1098 does not represent the young people it would impact,” said Trish Hyde (she/her), Regional Lead Organizer, New Era Colorado. “In our 2021 Youth Agenda Listening Tour, respondents consistently named equity as a top value and over one third identified LGBTQ+ rights issues as a top issue. This policy is antithetical to our collective belief that LGBTQ+ young people should be accepted for who they are and deserve policies to ensure their identities can exist safely, without fear of discrimination.”

“The ‘competitive edge’ discussed in sex differences in this bill does not account for hormone replacement therapy, and is NOT based in science that accounts for trans bodies,” said Ren Q Dawe (he/they), trans man, education professional, and white water athlete. “Participating in sports provides access to educational and economic opportunities, not to mention avenues for self actualization. Trans people have a right to these opportunities.”

About the bill

All young people should have an equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities. HB23-1098 would have subjected students attending public schools and universities in Colorado to invasive and stigmatizing hurdles to participate alongside their peers and denied transgender students access to the numerous social, emotional, and health benefits of sports. The bill was not about protecting students, ensuring girls and women’s rights, or creating fair athletic competition. In essence, the bill attempted to create a “solution” to a problem that doesn’t exist, while needlessly demonizing and harming vulnerable youth and young adult Coloradans.

Anti-trans myths and misinformation in committee

Most proponents of HB23-1098 perpetuated a national, anti-transgender narrative, pushing false assumptions about biology, athleticism, and gender. Prime bill sponsors, elected members of the committee, and supporters sharing virtual testimony made claims and perpetuated prominent anti-trans misconceptions that are extremely harmful, including:

  1. The participation of trans athletes in sports harms cis women,
  2. Trans athletes have an unfair athletic advantage,
  3. Sex is binary, apparent at birth and identifiable through singular biological characteristics,
  4. Trans students need separate teams.

Here are the facts:

  1. Excluding trans athletes invites gender policing that impacts and harms all athletes. This myth reinforces stereotypes and tropes of cisgender women needing protection. The real motive is not protection — it’s excluding trans people from public space.
  2. Trans athletes vary in athletic ability just like cisgender athletes. Social factors like coaching, nutrition, and time to train contribute to an athlete’s performance more than hormones – yet are consistently overlooked in policy-making.
  3. Trans and nonbinary people are exactly who they say they are. Bodies, including transgender, intersex, or disabled, have a range of differing physical characteristics. There is no “one-way” for a body to be. 
  4. Trans people have the same right to play sports along with their peers! The misguided ideal of  “separate but equal” did not work during the Jim Crow era and should not ever be resurrected.

Impacts of national anti-trans legislation and rhetoric

Year after year, waves of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation are introduced. So far in 2023, 308 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in the U.S., many of which directly target transgender, nonbinary, and gender-expansive youth and include prohibitions for medical care, insurance coverage, access to public accommodations, educational censorship, and extracurricular participation (like Colorado’s HB23-1098). 

Bills like this promote violence against trans and nonbinary people and perpetuate false information about how and where gender-based violence actually occurs. The reality is that violence reported against the transgender, nonbinary, and gender-expansive community is at an all time high. One third to one half of transgender and gender diverse Coloradans have experienced a hate crime or bias-motivated incident. Regardless of a bill’s passage or failure, all trans and nonbinary Coloradans are negatively impacted by the rhetoric and actions that surface from the introduction of bills like HB23-1098. This legislation is not just a prohibition on participation in sports; ultimately it is a threat to trans folks’ right to live authentically and maintain their health and safety.

Committee results

One Colorado thanks the following Committee members who voted in opposition of HB23-1098 and affirmed all young people’s right to participate in extracurricular activities free from discrimination:

  • Rep. Steven Woodrow, Committee Chair (HD-2)
  • Rep. David Ortiz, Committee Vice Chair (HD-38)
  • Rep. Andrew Boesenecker (HD-53)
  • Rep. Kyle Brown (HD-12)
  • Rep. Elisabeth Epps (HD-6)
  • Rep. Naquetta Ricks (HD-40)
  • Rep. Said Sharbini (HD-31)
  • Rep. Jenny Willford (HD-34)

HB23-1098 Prime Sponsors are Reps. Lisa Frizell (HD-45), Brandi Bradley (HD-39), and Sen. Byron Pelton (SD-1).

The bill failed in Committee with a final party-line vote of 8-3.