Gavy Smith started playing sports so she could spend time with her friends and learn new things.
“I enjoy just spending time with my friends and just like the community of it all, and just being able to play on a team and have those people that you can count on,” she said.
The high school freshman from Decorah started playing softball for the girls’ team in fifth grade. She has since played volleyball, run track, started bowling last fall, and was preparing to play for the golf team this spring.
Then Iowa Republicans and Gov. Kim Reynolds passed a bill to cut her off from those teams.
Iowa Republicans accomplished another item on their checklist Thursday when Reynolds signed a law—HF 2416—which bans transgender girls from joining girls’ sports offered by Iowa’s schools, colleges, and universities—essentially banning them from sports entirely. It takes effect immediately.
The Senate passed the bill on Wednesday, and the House passed it Feb. 21.
Now, Gavy doesn’t know what will happen. She said she’s never had issues before.
Gavy came out as trans when she was in the fourth grade,
“I just went there to the sport, played like every girl on my team, and just went through my sports in my school year and had no problem at all,” she said. “They had all gotten used to me being a girl and stuff, and they just had accepted it.”
If anyone did have a problem, Gavy said no one had ever said anything to her.
Gavy, along with her mother Tiffany Smith, have testified at all of the subcommittee meetings held on this bill, explaining the negative impact this law would have on her and how she just wants to live her life like anyone else.
“I’d probably be very depressed, like, left out and just feel different among everybody else more than I already do,” she said before the governor signed the bill.
Evidence shows that LGBTQ people’s mental health suffers when bills to restrict their rights are discussed.
After the Senate passed the bill Wednesday, Gavy had some hope Reynolds wouldn’t sign it.
“I just really wanted to go through my high school year and the rest of my life, just as every girl in my grade, just being able to play sports being accepted by everybody,” she said. “I know that’s not ever going to happen, that I’m, that nobody is going to be accepted by everybody. But I just hoped that I would just keep going on with my life.”
Tiffany Smith said they don’t have a concrete plan for next steps, but filing lawsuits is at the forefront of her mind.
“I wasn’t expecting it to go through so fast,” Smith said. “I guess I kind of thought we had a little time. I didn’t think that it would be something that we’d be dealing with this school year.”
Smith watched all of the debates in the legislature, even though it was gut-wrenching. She said some of the Democratic legislators gave her hope, but she didn’t think anything would change the minds of the Republicans.
“They have this one-track mind and are not thinking rationally about it,” Smith said.
“I’d really like it if Gov. Reynolds would have it in her heart and see Gavy and all other transgender children for who they are. They’re human, they just want to fit in with everybody else, and picking this group of kids out. It’s just. Just gut-wrenching, I don’t understand it.”
Smith wants her daughter to have the best opportunities and for everyone to see her as a real person who didn’t choose this identity.
“I’ve had Gavy, when she was very small, say ‘Mom, why am I like this?’ Why can’t I just be, you know, why couldn’t I have just been born a girl? And I wouldn’t have to deal with this?” Smith said. “Do you know how hard that is to hear that?”
Frequently, Republican legislators asked everyone to think of their own nieces, daughters, and granddaughters who play sports. They argued that girls can never compete and win against boys. They said they were protecting girls’ sports and their accomplishments.
Smith said that was exactly what she was thinking about—protecting her daughter’s ability to spend time with her friends and her happiness. And that’s why she stepped up to take this issue on.
“People are rude, they’re rude. They say horrible things, and it’s all directed towards transgender. It’s directed at my daughter,” she said. “It’s horrible. But we believe, you know, we’re very passionate about this, so we are subjecting ourselves to it in hopes that we can change people’s minds.”
No evidence points to trans women having a definite advantage when it comes to competition. For girls such as Gavy who are using puberty blockers—as many children do for a variety of reasons—they can often be at a disadvantage because their bodies are less mature than their peers.
Besides, Gavy said she doesn’t play sports so she can compete or win medals or scholarships. She enjoys the community and camaraderie.
“I’ve never really thought of it as a competitive way, cause I just played it for fun,” she said. “I never played it for the medals or scholarships or anything. I played it for fun.”