Several Southern Utah University athletes along with Turning Point USA held a Protect Women’s Sports rally on Wednesday, April 20, in response to the march and protest in support of transgender rights last week.
The rally evoked an enormous response from the LGBTQIA+ community and barricades were set up along the edges of the Gerald R. Sherratt Library plaza to separate the protestors and counter-protestors. Those coming to counter-protest in support of trans rights substantially outnumbered those attending who supported HB0011 which bans trans girls from competing in high school athletics.
The chants of “protect women’s sports” and “trans lives matter” sounded back and forth across the plaza for more than an hour. Students had the chance to expound on their beliefs in regards to HB0011, which will take effect July 1, and the participation of transgender athletes in high school, collegiate and professional sports.
Chapter President of Turning Point USA Carter Robinson said he is worried about women’s sports but not men’s sports. He believes that women are facing an unfair disadvantage in sports by competing against trans women but that men’s athletics do not face the same threat.
“[Trangender women] have a lot more biological advantages than females,” Robinson claimed. “I don’t care if trans athletes compete against men if it doesn’t make the other athletes that are male uncomfortable because females don’t pose a biological advantage to men.”
Track and field athlete Noah Bringhurst supports HB0011. He explained that when he ran high school track and field, his times were always one second faster than female athletes.
“Being an athlete my entire life, there’s always been a divide,” Bringhurst said. “The divide is there in high school and even middle school so that separation is perfectly fine and should be there because that cross-over is only happening in one direction.”
Track and field athlete Brooklyn Haynie believes that there is not an even playing field between men and women in sports. She spoke about her teammate’s experience of competing against June Eastwood, a trans woman who ran cross country.
“I just remember being at conference and watching [Eastwood] jog across the finish line after the mile while those women gave every ounce of everything they had,” Haynie said.
Track and field athlete Jordyn Bartolomucci thinks that people misunderstand their message. She and the other demonstrators reiterated that they just want competition in sports to be fair for women.
“We’re not against trans people, we are just protecting the sport that we love,” she said.
On the other side of the aisle, counter-protesting students wanted to reiterate that HB0011 affects children in the public education system and does not affect sports beyond that.
SUU student Mckay White explained that their friend, a trans woman, took their life after the passage of this bill.
“The thing about it is that they say they are not going against trans rights but by saying that trans women cannot be in sports with other women, they are saying they’re not really women,” White said. “Bottom line is that gender affirmation is suicide prevention and the suicide rates are skyrocking so I am worried for our youth.”
SUU student Eliza Corrington explained that she was frustrated that the demonstrators for the rally claimed to be in favor of protecting transgender students while opposing their participation in women’s sports.
“High school is such an important time for teenagers to figure themselves out and if you are trans and you are excluded from doing something that you love, like playing a sport, then you are missing out on a huge chance in life,” Corrington said. “If you really care about trans rights, you would let people who are trans play sports. It’s a human right.”
SUU student Athens Webster explained that sports are an important part of child development because it provides a community, a way to relieve stress and it is something that children really enjoy. She believes that the passage of HB0011 will lead to an increase in youth suicides.
“We are here supporting trans people because you can’t support only one aspect of trans lives,” Webster said. “You have to support all of it.”
Video footage of protestors and counter protestors:
Article and video footage by Danielle Meuret
Photos by Mckayla Olsen