It’s August in an odd year in our state, so the normal business of Texas is afoot: ERCOT threatens imminent system failure if citizens won’t alter their residential temperatures to that of a terrarium. Texas public schools scramble to retain teachers by awarding miniscule raises that districts can ill afford after the state botches another cohesive funding effort, and the Texas GOP-dominated legislature spends the next year and a half assuring their constituency that a five-month session accomplished something.
To the final goal, Gov. Greg Abbott moseyed up to the tip of the Golden Triangle in Denton for a symbolic signing of a new bill at Texas Woman’s University on Monday. SB 15 is touted by its author and sponsors (99 Republicans and one Democrat) as saving women’s collegiate sports in the Lone Star State by barring trans men from competing with women. As with most of Abbott’s legislation, it’s a nothing burger, just repackaged cultural rhetoric more feebly produced than rebooted seasons of The Real Housewives: the evolution of the bathroom bill battles of 2016, but this time, Abbott is saving the ball fields, or the fields from balls, you get the idea.
The law, taking effect Sep 1, was officially signed by the governor more than six weeks ago, requiring collegiate athletes at public institutions in Texas to compete on a team commensurate with their assigned birth gender. Congratulations, Texas Republicans. It wasn’t abortion rights that would elevate you to savior status among the fairer sex. It’s this, apparently. Any reasonable person — which, admittedly, can be harder to find than ever — can agree that this legislation solves a problem that isn’t, but the intent is to convey that trans people are nefarious and scary and that they threaten the very fabric of Godfearing Southwestern society and aren’t wanted or welcomed in any way. Why else would Abbott choose one of the most diverse universities in the nation, in a city that is largely a Democratic stronghold, to symbolically sign a law that is all hat and no cattle? According to Republican lawmakers, every bleeding heart without a MAGA hat and a Let’s Go, Brandon flag is considering reassigning their child’s gender to make millions becoming the next generation’s Michelle Phelps, or Kirk Ledecky, or whatever. Rather, there were tenfold as many Abbott protesters waiting to “greet” him in 105-degree heat as there are NCAA athletes who identify as trans, which is less than 40 out of approximately half a million competing at universities nationwide.
“Abbott and his cronies came to TWU to use our inclusive, accepting school as a pawn in his hateful agenda,” said one of the several hundred on hand. “We showed him we don’t go along with it.”
Counter protesters — at a quantity great enough to field a church-league basketball team — also attended what was mostly a peaceful demonstration. One protester was briefly detained by police after throwing water at a known local conservative demonstrator who became temporarily TikTok famous some time ago but doesn’t appear to be active anymore and has simply graduated to agitating people in person.
Monday was yet another tiny salvo in the culture wars created by our state legislature to distract everyone from the work that isn’t being done. The fallout, though, poisons the environments and psyches of the real people for which this isn’t a flippant symbolic farce.
“My grandmother was queer and wrote loads of anonymous op-eds back in the day about suicide in the LGBTQ+ community,” another attendee asserted. “It’s important to me that I continue that work.”
Sports tend to be a personification of who and where we are as a society. Athletics, in general, has worked to be safer and more accessible for all participants. SB 15 didn’t save anything, because nothing was in danger, but it does make life more dangerous for a group who is, and continues to be, in harm’s way.
This column reflects the opinions of the editorial board and not the Fort Worth Weekly. To submit a column, please email Editor Anthony Mariani at Anthony@FWWeekly.com. He will gently edit it for clarity and concision.