NCAA group condemns anti-transgender sports bills in open letter

The bills send a message to kids that "they are not welcome," one signee said.

Already, 2021 has been a record year for anti-transgender legislation -- especially when it comes to school athletics -- and one group is taking a stand.

To date, 28 states across the country have taken action to introduce, pass and sign anti-transgender bills, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The majority of these bills are attempting to exclude transgender athletes from school sports and deny gender-affirming health care to youth.

In response, the National Collegiate Athletics Association’s (NCAA) Division III LGBTQ OneTeam Program and members of the NCAA’s Division III LGBTQ Working Group condemned the newly proposed laws in an open letter.

The LGBTQ advocacy group on Monday released a letter titled “An Open Letter in Support of Transgender Student-Athletes,” which called upon elected officials to put an end to legislation aimed at “excluding transgender youth and young adults from equal and equitable participation in sport.”

“We have decided to use our collective voice to condemn such actions,” the letter reads. “We cannot, in good conscience, fail to speak out at this critical moment.”

The NCAA Division III LGBTQ OneTeam Program trains coaches, athletics administrators and student-athletes across all Division III athletics to promote LGBTQ inclusion in college athletics and create an inclusive and safe climate.

“Legislation aimed at categorically banning transgender people -- and particularly transgender girls and women -- from sport is inherently discriminatory,” the letter said. “Such legislation is often ‘informed’ by hate and misinformation rather than science, and it is most certainly ‘informed’ by fear instead of fact.”

The release of the open letter comes amid controversy over several bills targeting transgender people that have advanced in multiple states. The governors of Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee have all signed laws prohibiting transgender girls and women from competing in school sports teams consistent with their gender identity. Executive orders to the same effect have also been signed in South Dakota.

The letter was signed by more than 50 other facilitators of the NCAA Division III LGBTQ OneTeam Program, including Timothy R. Bussey, associate director of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Kenyon College.

“It's so important to speak out against this legislation, because it is fully rooted in transphobic lies and myths and misconceptions about transgender people,” Bussey, who uses they/them pronouns, told ABC News.

“These laws really play off of those myths and misconceptions about the trans community, and this proposed legislation really weaponizes that misconception and that lack of understanding of science in a way that seeks to exclude trans people and ultimately causes harm to trans folks on a number of levels," they said.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 18 states introduced bills last year that would ban transgender girls and women from competing on girls' and women's school sports teams. That number increased this year, with more than two dozen states now introducing similar legislation in their current session.

Additionally, more than 90 anti-trans bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the nation this year, according to the HRC.

Bussey also warned that the continued passage of anti-transgender legislation is sending a “dangerous message.”

“It's sending a message to educators and school professionals across the country that legislators in your state want to treat trans and non-binary students in a way that they can be excluded from certain spaces,” they said.

“Ultimately, it's going to have an impact on trans youth and trans young adults, irrespective if they want to play sports," Bussey added, "because it's sending a message to those kids that they are not welcome.”

The NCAA LGBTQ OneTeam letter echoed that warning.

“Discriminatory legislation that is aimed at excluding transgender people from sport has a number of serious consequences for transgender students,” the letter reads. “Such legislation dehumanizes transgender students, refuses them the opportunity to participate equally and equitably in athletics, undermines their support in educational settings, damages their mental health, and ultimately harms these students, while also contributing to an exclusionary athletic environment and a more hostile school climate for all students.”

The letter closes by calling for an end to such legislation in all states, along with the repeal of laws signed in Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi and Tennessee.

ABC News' Robert Zepeda contributed to this report.

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