The Soapbox: You can’t divide us – transgender athletes have a right to play



Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.

When Governor Sununu signed discrimination protections into law in 2018, he stated that “… New Hampshire is a place where every person, regardless of their background, has an equal and full opportunity to pursue their dreams and to make a better life for themselves and their families.” However, a slate of legislation that is currently in the New Hampshire Senate aims to threaten just that.

One of the bills, HB 1205, has struck a chord in me in particular as a lifelong athlete and Granite Stater who has played sports since the age of 7 all the way until college where I competed on Plymouth State University’s swimming and diving team and club ultimate frisbee team.

HB 1205 is a transgender-exclusionary sports ban that would prohibit trans athletes in grades 5 through 12 from playing sports in New Hampshire public schools and clubs despite the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association saying “that it would be fundamentally unjust” to ban trans athletes from participating.

For as long as I can remember, sports have been a fundamental part of my life. The lessons I’ve learned, the wins (and losses), the opportunities to work together with and learn from my teammates, have all been invaluable not just in shaping the joy of my childhood but creating a foundation for the person I am today.

But bans like HB 1205, and other ones like it that have popped up across the country recently, threaten that experience and joy that all kids deserve to have, including transgender athletes in New Hampshire.

If passed, HB 1205 would also lead to unnecessary intrusions on student-athletes by requiring them to submit a birth certificate or provide “other evidence,” to participate in team sports that align with their gender identity, creating a slew of new liabilities for schools that fail to comply. Furthermore, transgender athletes have the right to participate on teams that align with their gender, as codified by Title IX and New Hampshire’s own transgender non-discrimination law.

Bans like HB 1205 simply do not protect or promote fairer or more equitable athletics for women. Rather, their purpose is to target, exclude, and push a transphobic narrative built on prejudice that has severe mental and emotional consequences for transgender Granite Staters.

HB 1205 would put the integrity of New Hampshire school athletic programs at risk by adding the administrative burden for athletic departments to police the gender of student-athletes solely for the purpose of excluding an already-marginalized group.

Sports are a critical part of our culture and a tool for social development: It is morally wrong to deprive someone of all that sports offer our young people as they develop into well-rounded, responsible adults – because they are transgender. That is discrimination.

As a broad group of women athletes in the Granite State, we ask our fellow neighbors, friends, and community members to join us in opposing this bill. Transgender athletes are our teammates, peers, competitors, and friends. Their participation strengthens all of us. For the benefit of our student-athletes, schools, and the integrity of competition, we encourage you to reject these harmful and divisive bills and any others that restrict the rights of transgender student-athletes.

We cannot stay silent while members of our community face discrimination.

Please click here to show your support and sign our women athlete letter.

Beg to differ? Agree to disagree? You can comment below this post using our DISQUS app. Got issues of your own? Thoughtful prose on topics of general interest are welcome. Send to for consideration. Subject line: The Soapbox.

Stephanie Labeck is an alumna of the Plymouth State University Swimming and Diving, and Ultimate Frisbee Teams.