St. Johns County civil rights attorney Rook Ringer loved playing soccer as a kid, but she quit when it became clear to her that she just didn’t belong on the boy’s team. It never occurred to her that she could even ask to play with the girls.
It’s a painful memory. But in some ways, she said, it was simpler then.
“I almost wonder if in some ways it was easier for me as a transgender child back in the early 90s when people didn’t know what we were, you know? Now, it’s like not only does everybody know what transgender people are, they’ve heard of us now, but you’ve got these adults running on these crusades to make these children seem like superpredators out there, trying to destroy everything that they touch.”
Now, a transgender attorney herself, Ringer makes a living representing people in civil rights cases. She says, a 2020 Supreme Court case, Bostock v Clayton County, already determined that trans sports bans like Florida’s are unconstitutional.
“Why is the party of fiscal responsibility spending what’s going to end up being millions of dollars fighting [for] this law that the federal government has already said they’re going to fight [against]?”
The new law is one of many across the country framed as protecting cisgender women in sports, and in doing so, they frame trans women as invariably stronger and faster than cisgender women.
Florida State Senator Kelli Stargel, who supported the bill in Tallahassee, put it this way:
“I’ve always heard as a kid, you know, you run like a girl. And looking at that video, it’s evident. The trans woman who competed, or the self-identified woman, ran very differently than the others in the competition. It’s physiologically different. Men are stronger, they have bigger lung capacity, stronger muscles.”
Some medical experts would complicate those statements. Renowned trans health and medicine expert Joshua Safer says one key difference in strength is testosterone levels, which vary between the sexes but also within the sexes: Some women have very high testosterone and some have very low testosterone, and the same is true for men. “A person’s genetic make-up and internal and external reproductive anatomy are not useful indicators of athletic performance and have not been used in elite competition for decades,” he said in a recent legal filing.
Dedreck Mose, a social media influencer St. Johns County who took estrogen supplements and testosterone blockers for two years, said the treatment made his body weaker than it had been before.
“I didn’t do any surgical transition, but my body was changing drastically,” he said. “The strength level really dropped. I was super sensitive and my body was super fragile.”
The physical changes were part of why Mose decided to stop transitioning in 2019.
Mose said he could understand lawmakers’ reluctance to allow people with male hormones to play womens’ sports, but he said once someone begins hormonal or surgical transition, they ought to be able to play sports with people of their same gender.
That’s in line with the policies of the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which allows trans women to compete in womens’ sports as long as they are taking testosterone suppression therapy.
“The NCAA and the Olympics, all these other sports agencies have had legitimate, science-based rules on who can compete and what requirements they have to go through to compete for 10 years and never had any problems,” Ringer added.
But the pain the law will cause for trans children is real, she said. And for those trans children, Ringer has a message.
“I’m here for you, you know? I’m happy to stand with you and behind you, and support you, and I think most transgender women, or transgender men that are adults feel the same way. We’ve got your back.”
Contact Sydney Boles at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.