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5 Nov, 2021 12:11

‘It makes me so angry’: Mother backs teen transgender golfer as he sues US lawmakers amid rights group pledge to ‘continue fight’

‘It makes me so angry’: Mother backs teen transgender golfer as he sues US lawmakers amid rights group pledge to ‘continue fight’

A 14-year-old transgender golfer has filed a lawsuit through a civil rights group against lawmakers in Tennessee, hitting out at laws stopping school athletes from participating on teams that do not match their gender at birth.

Luc Esquivel, a freshman at Farragut High School in Knoxville, has filed a lawsuit through the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) after he said new legislature stopped him trialing for a boys' golf team, leaving him "crushed".

Under a new law passed by state governor Bill Lee in March, student athletes are required to prove that they are competing in the gender they were assigned at or close to their birth.

“It made me – and still makes me – so angry,” fumed Esquivel's mother, Shelley, speaking during a period in which transgender rights in school sports have become a hot topic in the US, with several attempts to pass similar laws achieving varying levels of success.


“A mother wants to see their kid happy, thriving, enjoying being a kid. High school sports are an important part of that.

"I know how much Luc was looking forward to playing on the boys’ golf team. It’s heartbreaking to see him miss out on this high school experience, and it is painful for a parent to see their child subjected to discrimination because of who they are.

"I’m proud Luc is taking this step, and his father and I are with him all the way.”

When he signed the bill in March, governor Lee explained that he was taking the step to "preserve women’s athletics and ensure fair competition."

“This legislation responds to damaging federal policies that stand in opposition to the years of progress made under Title IX and I commend members of the General Assembly for their bipartisan work," he added.

Also on rt.com ‘This is so awful’: US women’s team captain Megan Rapinoe slams bill banning transgender girls from competing as ‘beyond words’

Transgender rights campaigners have vociferously claimed that there are almost no examples of athletes competing in their transitioned gender denying cisgender rivals opportunities.

“When Tennessee lawmakers passed this discriminatory law, they could not identify a single instance of a Tennessee student facing any harm from a transgender athlete playing sports," said Hedy Weinberg, the ACLU of Tennessee's executive director.

"However, the emotional cost of this law to transgender student athletes is tremendous.

"We stand with trans students across the state as we challenge this law, and we urge other trans student athletes and their families facing such discrimination to contact us.”

Articulating his predicament, Esquivel said: “I was really looking forward to trying out for the boys’ golf team and, if I made it, training and competing with and learning from other boys and improving my game.

“Then, to have the legislature pass a law that singled out me and kids like me to keep us from being part of a team – that crushed me, it hurt very much. I just want to play, like any other kid.”

According to the ACLU, health care organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics have opposed the kind of legislation passed by Lee, with the National Collegiate Athletic Association backing transgender participation.

Federal courts in Idaho and West Virginia blocked legislation banning participation by transgender girls last year.

“There is endless research demonstrating the short-term and long-term benefits that flow from participating in team sports for kids growing up,” said Sasha Buchert, a senior attorney at Lambda Legal, which has organized the lawsuit.

“For trans kids, who often experience alienation and stigmatization, participating on teams with their peers is especially important.


"Luc just wants to play golf with other boys, to be part of the team, and to improve his game. Like all kids, he just wants to play.”

Leslie Cooper, the deputy director of the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, said the suit is the union's fifth challenge to an anti-trans law passed in 2021.

“We will continue to fight these relentless attacks on trans youth," she pledged.

"There is no reason, apart from the legislature’s desire to express its disapproval of transgender people, to keep Luc from playing on the boys’ golf team.”

Also on rt.com Texas governor signs bill requiring student athletes to compete according to their sex at birth, not gender identity