House lawmakers initially approved a measure to protect women’s collegiate athletics from men masquerading as women.

Senate Bill 15 by State Sen. Mayes Middleton (R–Galveston) extends the current ban on boys competing in girls’ public school sports teams to include public colleges and universities.

It will “codify the necessary protections for our college female athletes,” according to House sponsor Valoree Swanson (R–Spring), ensuring women are able to “compete on a level playing field.”

Swanson highlighted the physical differences between men and women, explaining how these differences enable men to run faster, jump higher, and hit harder than women. 

The controversy over biological men participating in women’s sports has erupted in recent years, and it was thrust into the national spotlight when University of Pennsylvania “transgender” swimmer William Thomas (who now goes by Lia) consistently dominated his female competition and won the 2022 NCAA Division I national championship in the 500-yard freestyle event. Thomas was ranked 462nd in the men’s division the previous year.

One woman forced to compete against Thomas, 12-time NCAA All-American swimmer Riley Gaines, testified before both the Texas House and Senate to the devastation created by allowing men to compete with women and share their private spaces. 

Gaines tied with Thomas in the 200-yard freestyle event but went home empty-handed because the NCAA said Thomas had to take the trophy for “photo purposes.”

“I felt belittled and reduced down to a photo op,” said Gaines. 

Additionally, the women were forced to share a locker room with Thomas, whom Gaines described as a “6-foot-four, 22-year-old male equipped with and exposing male genitalia.”

“We were not asked for our consent, we did not give our consent, and we were not forewarned about the situation,” said Gaines.

State Rep. John Bucy (D–Austin) said there is “no evidence” that this is an issue in Texas and attempted to amend the measure to remove the enforcement mechanism.

“I don’t think trans people competing in sports is a problem,” said Bucy, later emphasizing that he’s here to “protect trans women’s rights to be included.” 

State Rep. Jeff Leach (R–Plano) argued that Bucy’s position was not at all pro-woman, and State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R–Tyler) asked Bucy to define the word “woman.” 

Bucy essentially argued that “anyone who claims to be one” is a woman, adding that he doesn’t question anyone’s stated gender. “I’m gonna trust trans people in the state of Texas.”

Bucy’s amendment failed by a vote of 51-92. 

A slew of Democrat amendments were offered to carve out exceptions or gut the bill, but they were all voted down. 

The measure was ultimately approved by a vote of 93-49.

Upon approval from the governor, Texas will join several other states in protecting women’s sports. 

Sydnie Henry

A born and bred Texan, Sydnie serves as the Capitol Correspondent for Texas Scorecard. A 2021 graduate of Patrick Henry College with a B.A. in Government, Sydnie is utilizing her research and writing skills to spread truth to Texans.

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