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Demonstrators In Cleveland Protest Anti-Trans Legislation

Protestors gathered outside the State Office Building in Downtown Cleveland. [Taylor Haggerty / Ideastream Public Media]
A group of people marching in a circle with signs calling for trans rights.

Demonstrators gathered in Downtown Cleveland Friday to protest bills that would limit transgender individuals’ participation in athletics statewide.

The two bills currently in the works at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus,  House Bill 61 and  Senate Bill 132, would ban transgender females from joining women’s sports teams in both high school and college. To participate in sports, they would instead have to join men’s or co-ed teams.

Outside the State Office Building at West Prospect and Superior avenues, Susan Schnur handed out signs to about half a dozen attendees who wanted to bring attention to the bills. Schnur, who organized the event, said the bills are contributing to the alienation of transgender youth.

 “It’s really intruding on healthcare, as well as participation with young people,” Schnur said. “It can lead to ostracization and bullying.”

The Republican women sponsoring the measures – Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) and Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) – say transgender girls and women have an unfair biological advantage over cisgender athletes.

Opponents like Schnur see the proposals as discriminatory against an extremely small group of student-athletes who are already far more likely to be bullied and suffer from higher rates of depression and suicide.

“It’s so funny when they talk about trans people using bathrooms. The real threat are these guys who are in power, like the sports doctors,” Schnur said. “They’re the ones who are risking young people, their health and their safety, not a person who’s transitioning to a more comfortable gender.”

The current policy of the Ohio High School Athletic Association is to allow transgender girls to compete if they have either undergone one year of hormone therapy or obtained special permission from their school’s athletic director who found no distinct physical or physiological advantage over other competitors.

Ohio needs to do more to protect the LGBTQ community, said Eliana Turan, the director of development at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. There isn’t enough legislation in place to preserve the safety and rights of transgender people, she said.

“I'm very cognizant of the fact that as a trans woman, I might be denied service at a bathroom somewhere. There's no legal remedy for me in many parts of the state,” Turan said. “Unfortunately, that's true regarding many aspects of life, whether it's employment or housing or what have you.”

Of about 400,000 Ohio high school athletes, five transgender girls opted to compete in women’s sports during the 2020-21 school year,  according to the Ohio Capital Journal.