Jazz Jennings calls out Florida’s Gov. DeSantis for signing anti-trans athletic bill: ‘It makes me feel terrible’

·4 min read
Jazz Jennings protested Florida's “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” which prevents transgender girls from playing on girls' sports teams. (Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
Jazz Jennings protested Florida's “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which prevents transgender girls from playing on girls' sports teams. (Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

Jazz Jennings called out Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis for banning transgender girls from playing on girls' sports teams — on the first day of Pride month, no less.        

The 20-year-old transgender activist, who grew up in South Florida, shared an Instagram post on Tuesday celebrating the annual month-long observance of LGBTQ Pride. "On this June 1st, the first day of Pride Month, Mother Nature blessed us with a beautiful double rainbow, signifying the colorful nature of the LGBTQ+ community," she wrote. "However, today came bearing some less 'colorful' news. In my home state of Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis signed an anti-trans bill into law." 

Jazz quoted DeSantis, who signed the bill at a Christian school in Jacksonville: “In Florida, girls are going to play girls sports and boys are going to play boys sports," he said. "We're going to make sure that that's the reality." The “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” states that "an athletic team or sport that is designated for females, women, or girls may not be open to students of the male sex, based on the student’s biological sex listed on the student’s official birth certificate at the time of birth."

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President Biden issued an executive order to protect individual rights on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, specifying that children should have equal access to school sports and locker rooms "no matter who they are or whom they love," but multiple states have passed anti-transgender athletic bills. Florida's law trails those approved in Idaho, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Arkansas and Montana.  

These states argue that being born male allows transgender girls a physical advantage over cisgender girls. However, the debate is not limited to physicality — it introduces ethics about how transgender people deserve to be treated overall. According to a National Center for Transgender Equality study of almost 28,000 transgender adults, 77 percent who were openly or viewed as transgender at K-12 schools reported verbal or physical harassment, sexual or physical assault or harsher discipline, with 17 percent leaving school due to mistreatment. While a National School Climate Survey published by GLSEN in 2019 found that more than 10 percent of LGBTQ students said that school staff "prevented or discouraged" them from playing sports, citing additional challenges if they aren't allowed to use locker rooms that meet their gender identity.

"As someone who has experienced discrimination in sports, it makes me feel terrible about the message that laws like this send out to transgender youth," Jazz wrote in her post. "Here’s my message to all LGBTQ+ people everywhere: you deserve to be loved and respected regardless of your gender identity or sexual orientation. They may try to take away our sports, our healthcare, and our rights, but they can’t take away our #PRIDE!"    

At age 8, Jazz was banned from competing on her girls' soccer team, despite having identified as a girl since she was 5 years old. However, supported by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Jazz and her family fought the ban and won. Jazz has gone on to star in her own long-running reality television series, I Am Jazz, documenting her life as a transgender teen and young adult. In 2016, she published her memoir, Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen.

On Tuesday, Jazz's brother Sander called the bill "cruel" and "absolutely disheartening," telling station WGFL of his sister's childhood ban, "It actually kind of tore apart her experience playing soccer," he said. "She never really was the same soccer player."            

Jazz holds optimism that laws, such as the one that passed in Florida, will be stopped before they start. “I’m hopeful that the bills will be dismissed, or something will be passed at the federal level that prevents these bills from being able to be passed,” she told Variety on Wednesday. “It’s discrimination, you know?”

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