There are roughly 11.8 million people living in Ohio, including about 2.6 million under the age of 18.
Of those, there are 400,000 student athletes in grades 7-12 who participate in 26 sports sanctioned by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA).
Of those, 142,000 are girls.
And of them all, there is one known transgender girl playing high school sports, a softball player who took up the sport two years ago and is on her school's varsity team only because there is no junior varsity. Even she admits she's not that good.
There are four transgender girls known to be competing at the middle school level.
For any caring human, it's heartbreaking and enraging.
Some of the alleged adults in the state of Ohio appear to be so hate-filled and determined to be actors in their party's grotesque identity politics theater that they have targeted a handful of children, going against the American Academy of Pediatrics' policy on care and the guidelines of the OHSAA, which mandates trans children show they've been on hormone therapy related to their gender transition for at least one year.
The Ohio softball player in question — who has publicly been identified by her first name, Ember — is a backup outfielder and catcher, and says her teammates treat her the same as anyone else on the roster. She and her mother rightfully see Ohio's proposed legislation as an attack on trans kids, especially since Republicans are also trying to outlaw proper healthcare for trans kids.
“The biggest thing is, these are children,” Ember told the Ohio Capital Journal, speaking of herself and the four middle schoolers. “These are not Olympic athletes. They’re not here to win, they’re here to just enjoy having the community and having the friendship and the sport itself. We’re children. We’re not trying to take over anything. We’re just trying to have fun.”
Ohio isn't the only state to do this, though its proposal would take things one horrific step further.
"If a participant's sex is disputed," the bill says, sex can be established through a physician's statement indicating "the participant's internal and external reproductive anatomy" and "an analysis of the participant's genetic makeup," among other things. That means any person who suspects young female athletes of being trans (that is, assigned male at birth) can file a report and force them to undergo invasive gender verification.
It is rare for doctors to need to perform pelvic exams on girls and women under age 21, but Ohio's bill may force an untold number to undergo one. Any girl could be reported, for any reason. It is easy to envision how it will be weaponized against any girl who some overzealous opposing parent deems "just too good," especially since there is no penalty for filing a false report.
In all, 18 states have now banned trans kids from taking part in youth sports.
In March, despite an impassioned statement by its governor in announcing his veto, Utah's legislature overrode the veto to enact its law barring trans female athletes; that law impacted one child. One. In a state of 3.1 million people, one transgender girl was known to be playing high school sports.
One child is an issue so urgent that lawmakers felt they had to take action? Seriously?
Imagine what it must feel like for that child and her family. Think about that for one minute, the despair you'd feel if you were told that your kid was the only kid in your state not allowed to do something because a brigade of bigoted buffoons wanted to score cheap political points with an ever-decreasing number of people in their party.
Being a high schooler is tough enough for most kids, especially in recent years, with a mixture of oft-toxic social media interactions and the isolation of COVID-related school closures. Data shows that 40 percent of transgender adolescents have attempted suicide. Earlier this year, a CDC survey found that 44 percent of all American high school students reported "persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness," the highest level ever recorded.
These numbers should be sounding alarm bells for all of us.
Let's clarify: alarm bells of concern that we're failing our kids. All of our kids.
Not alarm bells to work to single out minuscule percentages of them and take away something that makes them happy or proud, or even might be keeping them alive.
Not alarm bells to tell them that a cartel of dogmatic dolts in their state don't believe them worthy of the joy of being on a team, that they are not seen as fully human.
A tiny number of trans girls being allowed to play sports won't disrupt the Earth spinning on its axis. If these exclusionary extremists in Ohio actually cared about girls' sports, they'd be working harder to protect them from predators like Chad Willhoff, a former Cincinnati-area high school coach who was sentenced earlier this year after being found guilty of repeatedly raping a young girl, beginning when she was 12 and he was her 24-year-old school sports coach. Two other accusers have come forward to allege Willhoff sexually abused them too.
Ember should not have to advocate on her own behalf, to show up to the state house in Columbus to try to convince a narrow-minded cohort of clodhoppers that she is indeed a human, that she deserves to play softball.
And yet she has, and even more admirably, she seems more interested in the younger students behind her, who are on the verge of losing their access to sport, to acceptance, to fun. She revealed she's exhausted by it all, but she knows what playing softball has done for her, and she's worried about girls like her in Ohio who won't get that chance.
“I just want to be able to play softball. I’d much prefer if that were just the case and there wasn’t a fight,” she said. “I don’t want to be part of this. I’m just here because all I can think about are the younger kids under me that won’t have a sport.”
In other words, she has a heart. Would that the legislative louts in her state did too.