When 16-year-old “Jenny Roe” started playing volleyball on her high school team last year, she said she went from isolation, without much social life, to make close friends with whom she might be “awkward”.
“The team always had dinner together in the evenings before games, which I also liked. Sometimes we went to a teammate’s house and sometimes we ate at school. During the season, I had much better grades in my classes and I felt happy to go to school,” the teenager said.
These are the words of a transgender student from the Granite School District who shared her story, using the pseudonym Jenny Roe, in a statement filed in Utah’s 3rd District Court with a complaint seeking an end to the new Utah law that would ban transgender girls from participating. in women’s teams.
The lawsuit also includes a 13-year-old girl, named in the lawsuit as Jane Noe, who also attends a school in the Granite School District, and a 14-year-old girl named Jill Poe, who attends school in the Jordan School. District.
The girls’ attorneys along with Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich and Rosati, and the ACLU of Utah, say the ban is based on “unsubstantiated stereotypes” and fears not supported by scientific evidence. Lawyers call the law “so broad and unqualified” and say it causes serious harm, according to the complaint.
The girls and their families are suing the Utah High School Activities Association, the Granite School District and the Jordan School District.
The Utah Legislature this year passed HB11, a controversial bill that originally sought to create a commission to decide whether every transgender student can compete on their school’s team. But in the closing hours of the 2022 General Legislative Session of the Utah Legislative Assembly, Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, proposed to change the bill by banning transgender girls altogether from competing.
During a heated debate, supporters of the bill said they wanted to preserve fairness for girls in sport and pointed to transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, who they say has come to dominate in her sport after switching from competing against the men to the women.
The bill passed, was opposed by Governor Spencer Cox who denounced the process he followed, and then the legislature overruled Cox’s veto and reinstated the bill. The Legislature also passed changes to the bill that shields the Utah High School Activities Association from lawsuits as it enforces the ban.
Jane Noe said in court documents that she “knew she was a girl” since she was 3 years old. She said she told teachers at school from grade three and “since then I was treated like a girl at school and everywhere else.”
Jane said she started taking puberty blockers when she was 12 and would start hormone therapy “when my doctors say I can do it too”.
“The law that Utah passed on transgender girls playing sports really scares me,” she said. “It hurts to know that some people think I don’t belong in my team or my teammates. It’s like they wish I didn’t even exist. If I can’t be in the team swimming in high school, I’m not sure I’ll go to school at all.” She indicated that she would consider home schooling.
In her statement, Jenny Roe says that after a few volleyball games, her parents were asked to provide information about her so she could continue playing on the team.
“I learned this one day when I was traveling with the team for a volleyball match at another school. I was so upset that I could not continue playing with my team that I could not m ‘stop crying the whole bus ride,'” she said.
She said her teammates comforted her “all the time”. She was able to finish the season, but after that she says she missed her teammates and games, and found it “difficult to keep doing well” at school.
Jenny said that although she had a lot of support, she was teased at school. She said she knew she was transgender when she was 11 and started taking puberty-blocking drugs when she was 13. She plans to receive hormone medication soon, according to the statement.
“Although I have a lot of support, I have also been teased and harassed for being transgender, and I know some people don’t accept me. Sometimes I worry about my future and wonder if I can overcome other people’s fears and misconceptions about me because I’m transgender,” Jenny wrote.
Trials for next season’s team begin in July, she said, and she will be “devastated” if she can’t compete “like everyone else”. She said her school didn’t have a men’s volleyball team “but even if it did, I would never play there”, adding that it would be “awkward” and that her teammates at the he missed last year.
Similarly, 14-year-old Jill Poe said she wouldn’t compete in cross country – the sport she wants to play – if she can’t run during track and field meets.
“It would be embarrassing to do all the work with my team only to be told I can’t be with them when it matters most. It’s not being part of a team. It’s more like being a cheerleader. -cheerleader or water girl,” Jill wrote in her statement.
Jenny said she’s also concerned that Utahans “think it’s okay to target transgender people because of the law.” she said she knows “how it feels to be hated for who you are” and once received a death threat for being transgender.
The girls’ lawyers say they will each suffer irreparable harm if the bill goes into effect.
Lawyers also argue that the law could result in intrusion and violation of students’ privacy.
“The ban does not include any mechanism for how the discriminatory policy will be monitored or enforced and no mechanism that would protect athletes from unwarranted intrusion into their bodies or disclosure of private medical information. The ban does not protect nor are school officials disclosing students’ private medical information to others,” the attorneys said in the lawsuit.