AUSTIN (KXAN) — During a marathon hearing Wednesday that lasted more than 10 hours, a transgender child pleaded with Texas House lawmakers to halt a bill that would prevent her from playing in sports with other girls.
Sunny Bryant traveled with her mother, Rebekah, from Houston to join dozens of others testifying at the House Select Committee on Constitutional Rights and Remedies. The members held a vote on House Bill 25, which would ban transgender student-athletes from playing in sports corresponding to their gender identity. Gov. Greg Abbott added the legislation to the special session agenda again after it failed to pass three times this year.
“Why are you attacking me?” the 8-year-old said into the microphone lowered to match her height. “I’m really great.”
Bryant said she previously testified against the legislation, and this time she told the committee members that her family may move to another state with more accepting policies toward transgender people.
“My first visit to the Capitol should have been on a school field trip, not defending my right to exist,” she said, “but if I don’t show up, you won’t see the real stories. Kids like me whose futures will be crushed, opportunities taken away even before I’m given a chance to try.”
She suggested that the lawmakers pursuing this legislation should get to know more people like her.
“I think maybe you need more trans people in your life. Every time I meet trans kids and grownups, my heart grows,” Bryant said. “Don’t be a Grinch. Let your heart grow.”
Before Bryant’s testimony began, the hearing started with a presentation from Texas Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring. She had the chance to explain the contents of the legislation and argue why it’s needed in the state. She said it’s about fairness because she said transgender student-athletes put girls at a disadvantage in competitions. She was asked, but could not provide during the hearing definitive examples of instances in Texas where a trans person either took someone’s spot in a sport or caused them to lose an athletic scholarship. She told questioners she would get back to them.
Without this bill, Swanson said Title IX, which guarantees equal educational opportunity in federally-funded programs, is “in danger.” She also equated the legislation to preventing another energy crisis like the one that gripped the state in February when millions lost power for days during Winter Storm Uri.
“Our constituents expect us to see problems that are coming and not wait until there’s a disaster, until everything falls apart, and then try to fix it,” Swanson said. “I think we can all think about what happened last February, when we did not properly anticipate what could happen to the electric grid, and I think our constituents are not happy that we didn’t anticipate that. So it’s not leadership to wait until everything is falling apart.”
Texas Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, told Swanson that he believed the bill would raise the risk of trans youth harming themselves. The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization working with LGBTQ youth, released a report last month that revealed it received more than 3,900 crisis contacts this year from young people who identify as transgender and nonbinary in Texas. The report stated that many of them said they felt stressed and considered suicide due to legislation being debated in the state.
Sunny Bryant’s mother, Rebekah, spoke after her daughter, saying the eight year old began suffering anxiety because of the ongoing debates about this particular legislation.
“None of the people for this bill know a trans person, much less a child who will be cut off from the joy of playing sports and living a full life,” Rebekah said. “My child did not choose to be who she is. She just is.”
After hearing from hundreds of witnesses Wednesday, the House select committee ended up voting 8-4 along party lines to advance HB 25 onto a vote in the full House. Speaker Dade Phelan previously told The Texas Tribune that he believes there are enough votes right now for it to pass. The Texas Senate already approved the bill during this latest special session.
Equality Texas, one of the state’s LGBTQ advocacy groups, slammed the lawmakers for passing HB 25 out of committee. Ricardo Martinez, the organization’s CEO, said in a statement Thursday, “Transgender children participating in sports is not a national emergency or a Texas emergency; these attacks on trans kids and the ongoing trauma to the trans community certainly are. This is unconscionable. We will continue to show up to the Capitol in opposition of these bills and will do everything we can to ensure they are defeated once and for all.”
There is no date set yet for when the House will vote on this legislation.