As a citizen of Montana residing in Missoula’s Ward 3, I find the proposed legislation taken up by the Montana House Judiciary Committee on January 18 to ban transgender athletes from competition in youth sports and penalize medical professionals who provide care to those individuals shameful.

If passed, HB 112 and HB 113 will essentially punish vulnerable school age children, many of whom already struggle with safety, bullying and suicide. 

Furthermore, there is little to no evidence supporting a need for these bills and they attempt to address issues for which there are already nationally recognized policies, standards and guidance. The NCAA has measures in place to permit and appropriately regulate the participation of transgender athletes in competitive sports.

Similarly, The American Psychological Association, American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and other national health organizations have medically supported guidelines for providers of gender care. 

I also find it disingenuous that a policymaker would promulgate such bills under the guise of “saving women’s sports” and “providing for youth health protection” when it is abundantly clear this is an attempt to disenfranchise and discriminate against gender nonconforming members of our communities.  

Simply put, we need to find ways to continue to support, not punish, our transgender youth. We need to create circumstances for them to participate and be included rather than prohibit and exclude them. They are children after all, and they deserve an equal opportunity to thrive as human beings. 

House Bill 112 and House Bill 113 have no place in the laws that govern the people of Montana. We must speak up on behalf of these kids - and their families and doctors - because the legislators behind these bills are not qualified to decide what is best for them.  

Finally, let’s remind these elected leaders we prefer they spend valuable tax dollars solving actual problems and building a better tomorrow for all Montanans.   

Dori Gilels, a mother and wife, is a candidate for City Council Ward 3