Opponents speak out against banning trans athletes from Ohio women’s sports

More than 80 people submitted testimony in opposition to House Bill 6, which would prevent trans athletes from participating in Ohio women’s sports and youth athletics.

By: - April 20, 2023 4:55 am

Close-up of a transgender pride flag flapping on a sunny day filling the frame

Only a fraction of those who submitted testimony against a bill that would prevent trans athletes from participating in Ohio women’s sports and youth athletics were able to speak Wednesday due to time constraints.

Of the more than 80 people who submitted opponent testimony, the Higher Education Committee was only able to hear about a dozen because the committee had a hard stop time. Those who testified against the bill, dubbed “Save Women’s Sports Act,” spoke for nearly two hours.

“Assuming that all people who were assigned male at birth will naturally be stronger, faster or generally more athletic than those assigned female at birth is insulting to all female athletes – cisgender and transgender alike,” Mallory Golski, a swim coach, said during her testimony.

State Rep. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum introduced House Bill 6 in February, which would require separate single-sex athletic teams and allows athletes to file a civil lawsuit “if the participant is deprived of an athletic opportunity or suffers harm as a result of a violation of the bill’s single-sex participation requirements or if the participant is subject to retaliation for reporting such a violation,” according to an analysis by the Legislative Service Commission.

A similar bill was introduced in the last General Assembly that passed the House, but the Ohio Senate GOP struck out the genital inspection portion of the bill, replacing it with birth certificate checks. The bill ultimately ended up not passing. 

Chants of “trans lives matter” could be heard from the hallways outside of the committee meeting during opponent testimony.  

“Transgender girls are girls”

Golski shared during her testimony her experience coaching a transgender swimmer.

“Transgender girls are girls, and they deserve the chance to be role models on their teams,” she said.

State Rep. Joe Miller, D-Lorrain, said there is a lot of misinformation around not allowing transgender athletes to participate.

“One of the things that is being thrown out is by allowing trans youth to swim or in other girls sports that there is a sexual or pedophilia inclination,” he said. “… Could you dispel that because I hear this and it’s disturbing to hear it.”

Golski said the athletes she coaches are there to compete and don’t see each other as potential “suitors.”

“These are young kids,” she said. “They are not engaging in that behavior.”

State Rep. Mary Lightbody, D-Westerville, asked Golski to talk about how this bill is harming the transgender community.

“Fundamentally, it’s an attack on transgender youth,” Golski said. “Whether it goes through or not, it’s still creating that anxiety.”

State Rep. Josh Williams, R-Oregon, asked Golski if a transgender girl is a female.

“Yes, transgender girls are girls and transgender women are women,” Golski said.

Lalitha Pamidigantam, the advocacy manager at YWCA Columbus, reiterated in her testimony that transgender women are women and should be treated with dignity.

Miller said an argument proponents of HB 6 make is that their God says there is a biological female and male and asked her how she would respond.

“I would say in this country we do have freedom of religion,” Pamidigantam said. “I would counter that argument by saying ‘I appreciate that your religion is telling you one thing, but my religion is telling me another thing.”

Trans athletes and family members speak out against HB 6

Parker Parker, a senior at Olentangy High School, said the bill is not about “saving womens sports.” Parker is a transgender athlete on Olentangy’s field hockey team. 

“I can tell you that the best thing to do for the state of Ohio is to allow trans athletes,” Parker said.  “Don’t take the opportunity for trans youth like me to play as their full authentic self.”

Currently, if a trans girl wants to play on a team with cis girls, she must go through hormone treatments for at least one year or show no physical or  physiological advantages, according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

Minna Zelch shared in her testimony how her daughter is transgender and plays softball in high school. 

“My daughter would like to play softball at the Division 3 or club level in college, something this legislation would prevent,” Zelch said. “Therefore, my daughter will contribute to Ohio’s brain drain and go to another state for college.”

Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on Twitter.



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Megan Henry
Megan Henry

Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the past five years reporting in Ohio on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime. She previously worked at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network.