Advocates fight for trans athletes as more states consider school sports bans: Part 1

A Missouri State Rep. Doug Richey defends the state’s proposed ban. Transgender advocates say the bans are aimed at a problem that doesn’t exist. A father fights for his trans daughter.
10:42 | 05/12/21

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

Coming up next:

{{nextVideo.title}}

{{nextVideo.description}}

Skip to this video now

Now Playing:

{{currentVideo.title}}

Comments
Related Extras
Related Videos
Video Transcript
Transcript for Advocates fight for trans athletes as more states consider school sports bans: Part 1
are merely human rights. Andrea Yearwood was known for dominating in high school track races across Connecticut, like this one. Loved track? I first started running in seventh grade. Track was really -- really a support system with my teammates, always there to uplift me, and they've always been there, kind of as a light in the dark. Reporter: Instead of kudos for winning Connecticut state championships, she and another runner, Terry Miller, got criticized for being transgender. Long before she began running, Andrea knew she was different. Halloween, I remember dressing up as Cinderella when none of the other boys would. I remember playing with my Barbie doll. How old were you? Like -- 5, 6, 7. Like, pretty young. Reporter: Middle school, she began transitioning. But Andrea's stunning victories didn't sit well against the competition. I first raced against the transgender athletes at the state open meet, and I realized how much ahead they were of the other girls. It was disappointing to see how we weren't getting the spots that we rightfully deserved after we trained so many days and so many hours a day. Reporter: Alana Smith is a top runner at Danbury high school. Competition is in her blood. Her father, a former pro baseball hall of famer. Her mother, a former elite runner herself. What does running track mean to you? It means everything to me. It gives me a spot to be myself. When I go to practice, I go and get to hang out with my friends R. Also, I love to win. Reporter: Alana says winning felt out of reach. She joined other high school runners in a lawsuit, hoping to ban trans girls from competing against cisgendered girls like her in Connecticut. I feel it's strictly about biology and it's unfair for them to compete in our category. There's a broad coalition of people from all different political persuasions that agree that the physical advantages that men and boys have over women and girls is insurmountable. Reporter: Kristin Wagner is a lawyer for the alliance defending freedom, a self-described conservative Christian nonprofit. They helped file the Connecticut lawsuit last year and it marked a tipping point, sparking a nationwide debate about fairness and gender identity. In the past year and a half, seven states passed trans athletes bills. 28 more have legislation in the works. It's become a conservative rallying cry. Candidate Caitlyn Jenner, all let me get to this issue. Reporter: Caitlyn Jenner, now running for governor of California, once supports trans athletes rights to compete in the gender they identify with. But now the lifelong Republican and former olympian has changed her position, speaking out on TMZ. This is a question of fairness. That's why I oppose biological boys who are trans competing in girls' sports in school. It just isn't fair. We should be able to compete on a level playing field. And the policy that we have right now is making biological women be sidelined in our own support. She's forced to compete on an unfair playing field, so we're talking about equal opportunities. Under title IX, for example, colleges give out a certain number of scholarships to women and a certain number to men. Reporter: Title IX is the federal law that forbids educational programs from discriminating on the basis of gender. Critics say trans girls violate title IX because trans girls take opportunities away from cisgendered ones. What do you say to critics who might say you're cheat organize have unfair advantage? I ask them to do their and further look into who trans people are. Also what they go through. Whether medically or socially. And there is more to sports than just winning a medal. This sends a horrible message to trans young people and their families that they're not welcome that they're not safe. Trans people are scared, their families are scared. Reporter: Chase strangio says this is the latest ground in battle culture wars being waged despite the fact that few if any trans girls are competing in school sports. It's deeply hurtful and harmful to the transgendered young people constantly being scrutinized and attacked in this legislation, despite the practical realities which show after decades of data, trans people are not dominating sports at any level anywhere in the world. It's inappropriate. It's just not right. Reporter: Heated debate unfolding across the country, like here in the republican-dominated Missouri legislature, on whether to restrict trans athletes ability to compete. Can I ask you a question? Brandon bullware -- I know who you are. Reporter: A father on a mission, Brandon bullware lobbying on behalf of his trans daughter. For years I would not let my daughter wear girl clothes, play with girl toys -- Reporter: His impassioned speech to Missouri law patients going spiral on Twitter with more than 7 million views. I forced my daughter to wear boy clothes and get short haircuts, play on boy sports teams. As a parent, we don't want to squash our kids' spirit. We don't want to ever silence that flame inside them. And looking back on it now, that's exactly what I was doing when I was forcing my daughter to be someone she wasn't. Nice to meet you. Good to meet you. Reporter: Raised conservative, a minister's son, now pleading with lawmakers to have compassion for trans children. Making the rounds, talking to as many of you as I can -- Reporter: Some don't want to hear it. He won't come out? No. Can't say I'm surprised. Thank you. You're frustrated? I'm very frustrated. This is real. This affects real people. Reporter: At stake he says is his trans daughter's very childhood. She gets the opportunity to be a good. She gets the opportunity to participate on a sports team. To have fun, to play. That's nothing that should be denied to someone. Reporter: Brandon's passion fueled by regret. I still have a fair amount of guilt over how I handled the situation early on. And it's part of the reason I do what I do now and advocate for her. There are certain folks in power that have decided that the new target is transgender kids. Kids. What I also know is that those efforts always fail. Hate and fear always fail, and love wins. Now, they may win a few battles. But love always wins the war. Reporter: But many Missouri lawmakers say it's about fairness and the sanctity of the locker room. Like representative Doug Ritchie. What the focus of this bill is here in Missouri is to address the minors at the middle school, high school context for just protecting title IX female Mr. Speaker, this bill protects our students. What do you say to folks who say that this bill is anti-trans or trans phobic? Number one, it's not. It is just, again, an effort to protect female athletics in this context, in the middle school, high school context, as well as protecting our children who, when they're walking off the field, they're entering into that locker, shower room with their teammates, and I think those concerns are legitimate. They wouldn't fall into a phobic context. Some of your colleagues have said, I don't want my granddaughter in a locker room with boys peeping in. Do not make my granddaughters go into a locker room and have to worry about a boy coming into their locker room. Do you know of any specific instances where that has happened? You'd have to speak with them in terms of the individuals who are communicating those concerns. I haven't communicated those concerns myself. Because your critics would argue that this is a bogeyman that's being conjured up, that it's not actually happening. Again, you'd have to speak with them, because that's not been a concern that I've voiced. Reporter: The Missouri house bill could be passed by the end of the week. If approved, state senator Gregg grazer says he'll fight against it. The majority party here in Missouri and nationally likes to use these kind of hot-button issues when it comes to election time, to get people riled up. Reporter: Razer is one of six openly lgbtq members of the Missouri legislature, the only gay member in the senate. I was once a closeted, scared, suicidal teenager. I know what that feels like in this state. And an attack on lgbt kids and trans kids is an attack on all of us. This goes to a deep place in your heart, doesn't it? It does. It gets very personal. Reporter: This issue is also personal for 14-year-old Avery Jackson, who graced the cover of "National geographic" proudly trans at just 9. I have always wanted to do things like volleyball, dodgeball. But if these laws get passed, there's not really any point to doing that. Reporter: Avery has been homeschooled by her mother, Debbie Jackson, her entire life. She had been thinking about enrolling in a Missouri public high school next fall. So the laws are having what effect on that decision? Quite a big effect, whether it's bathrooms, sports, or just denying the fact that if you go here, you can't be who you are. Is this really just about sports? Sports teaches leadership skills and goal-setting. It's self-discipline. There are all these great skills that we need as humans to be successful later in life that you get from sports participation. One lawmaker's big concern was that somehow trans girls were nearly boys pretending to be girls so that they could invade the locker room. What do you say to that? I think it's kind of Trans kids are very self-conscious of their bodies already, generally. They don't want to stand out as different. So they're not going to go in and get undressed in front of other people. They're certainly not going in to gawk at other people. We're humans, and we're just trying to live our lives.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

{"duration":"10:42","description":"A Missouri State Rep. Doug Richey defends the state’s proposed ban. Transgender advocates say the bans are aimed at a problem that doesn’t exist. A father fights for his trans daughter. ","mediaType":"default","section":"ABCNews/Nightline","id":"77638865","title":"Advocates fight for trans athletes as more states consider school sports bans: Part 1","url":"/Nightline/video/advocates-fight-trans-athletes-states-school-sports-bans-77638865"}