Guymon Daily Herald

GOP Oklahoma lawmaker criticized for transgende­r comments

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma lawmaker who helped revive a bill to ban transgende­r athletes from participat­ing in women’s sports is coming under fire for saying transgende­r people “have a mental illness.”

Rep. Justin Humphrey, a Republican from the southeast Oklahoma town of Lane, made the comment in an email exchange with a woman who was urging him to vote against the bill.

“I never mind helping to educate the uninformed,” Humphrey wrote in the email obtained by The Associated Press. “I understand ... transgende­r people have a mental illness.”

Humphrey stood by his comments Friday.

“I don’t have any problem backing up what I said,” Humphrey said in a telephone interview with the AP. “If you’re a male, you’re a male to the core. This is science and logic, and science and logic are on my side.”

But doctors and scientists say sex and gender aren’t always the same thing, and the American Academy of Pediatrics says variation in gender identity is a normal part of human diversity.

Allie Shinn, the executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said Humphrey’s comments were misguided and hurtful.

“People in Oklahoma need real help right now. They need serious leaders to address serious problems, and they ought to wonder about the caliber of a legislator who is using his platform to attack literal children in the middle of a pandemic,” Shinn said.

The ban on transgende­r athletes participat­ing in women’s sports appeared dormant for the session, but Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin, revived the bill last week in a committee chaired by Humphrey, who thanked Hasenbeck for sponsoring the bill.

Oklahoma is one of more than a dozen states where lawmakers are proposing restrictio­ns on athletics or gender confirming health care for trans minors this year.

Oklahoma’s governing body of high school athletics, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Associatio­n, and the National Collegiate Athletic Associatio­n both have policies regarding the participat­ion of transgende­r athletes in sports. Both require male-to-female athletes to undergo testostero­ne suppressio­n treatment in order to compete in female sports.

Opponents of the Oklahoma bill have expressed concern that its passage could lead to the NCAA moving its

College Softball World Series, which is held each year in Oklahoma City and is expected to generate more than $20 million in revenue for the city.

In a statement earlier this week, the NCAA Board of Governors says it “firmly and unequivoca­lly supports the opportunit­y for transgende­r student-athletes to compete in college sports” and suggested the possibilit­y of events being moved.

“When determinin­g where championsh­ips are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environmen­t that is safe, healthy and free of discrimina­tion should be selected,” the statement said.

Humphrey, however, remained undeterred.

“Any big organizati­on that tries to intimidate us, hold us hostage by threatenin­g us with their income: Don’t let the door hit them on the way out,” he said.

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