MSNBC host pushed West Virginia governor to defend anti-trans bill with evidence. He couldn't.

A wave of anti-transgender bills have been making their way through state legislatures the past few months, with more than a dozen states proposing bans on transgender athletes competing in girls' sports.

The issue of trans people in athletics is a bit of a tricky one on paper. In actual reality, though, it's not.

The justification for banning trans girls from playing sports with cisgender girls is hormones and build. The theory goes that a trans girl has a biological advantage over non-trans girls because they have higher testosterone levels, larger muscle mass, etc.

Besides the fact that physical makeup and athleticism varies greatly among individuals for hundreds of reasons besides sex, this theory that trans athletes are a threat to cisgender athletes appears to be a problem largely manufactured in people's minds and not backed up by evidence.


Transgender women have been competing in sports for a long time at the professional level and have never dominated in any professional field. They don't even dominate in non-professional sports. Proponents of these bills point to one case in Connecticut where two transgender runners won regularly in track competitions, but that's pretty much the only example anyone across the entire country can name. Yes, trans women might actually win some competitions sometimes. But that doesn't mean there's a widespread issue of unfair athletic advantage.

In fact, MSBNC's Stephanie Ruhle asked West Virginia governor Jim Justice to cite a single example of a trans child with an unfair advantage from his own state, where he just signed a bill banning trans athletes from competing in girls' sports at "any public secondary school or state institution of higher education."

"Can you name one example of a transgender child trying to gain an unfair competitive advantage at a school there in West Virginia?" she asked.

He couldn't. He said he had been a girls' basketball coach and that boys had an "absolute advantage" playing against girls. However, he couldn't cite a single instance of that actually happening in his state.

Ruhle then questioned why he felt this bill was worth taking time on in a state that ranks in the bottom five in the country for education, health care, economy, and infrastructure.

"If you cannot name one single example of a child doing this, why would you make this a priority?" she asked.

Watch:

Her wrap-up said it all. "Sir, thank you. And please come back when, beyond anecdotal feelings as a coach, you can show me evidence where those young women are being disadvantaged."

It's hard to argue that transgender sports bans are vital pieces of legislation when most people would be hard-pressed to even name a transgender athlete, much less a trans athlete who is raking in all the medals.

Speaking of raking in medals and having an unfair advantage, should we talk about how Michael Phelps's body is perfectly designed to dominate in swimming? Should he be asked not to compete because his biology—his short legs, long arms, and broad shoulders—give him a clear advantage over other swimmers? What about the fact that his chest is hyper-jointed and his double-jointed ankles flex 15% more than his competitors? Aren't those biological advantages that make it hard for other swimmers to compete against him?

But we're talking about general biological differences between males and females here, which is why we have men's and women's sports. Sure. But again, trans girls are simply not dominating women's sports, and they've been competing in them for a long time. So this legislation is a solution to a problem that doesn't seem to exist.

According to Dr. Eric Vilain, a pediatrician and geneticist who studies sex differences in athletes, hormonal differences are not a good faith reason to ban trans girls from high school sports anyway. As he told NPR:

"We know that men have, on average, an advantage in performance in athletics of about 10% to 12% over women, which the sports authorities have attributed to differences in levels of a male hormone called testosterone. But the question is whether there is in real life, during actual competitions, an advantage of performance linked to this male hormone and whether trans athletes are systematically winning all competitions. The answer to this latter question, are trans athletes winning everything, is simple — that's not the case. And higher levels of the male hormone testosterone are associated with better performance only in a very small number of athletic disciplines: 400 meters, 800 meters, hammer throw, pole vault — and it certainly does not explain the whole 10% difference.

And lastly, I would say that every sport requires different talents and anatomies for success. So I think we should focus on celebrating this diversity, rather than focusing on relative notions of fairness. For example, the body of a marathon runner is extremely different from the body of a shot put champion, and a transwoman athlete may have some advantage on the basketball field because of her height, but would be at a disadvantage in gymnastics. So it's complicated."

The categorizing of sports by sex or gender may be somewhat complicated, but the pushing of legislation to flat-out ban trans athletes from sports is not. High school and college sports shouldn't be purely about besting the competition—they should be about teamwork and comradery, as well as developing perseverance, resilience, and self-discipline. And let's be real. Most of the people pushing for this legislation aren't doing so because they're worried about unfair advantage; they're doing it because they are uncomfortable with transgender people, period.

Oh, and there's also this tidbit of info. Governor Justice said there are "only 12 transgender-type kids" in West Virginia, which is 1) ridiculous to say, and 2) begs the question of why they would need an entire bill to address trans girls in sports. According to a study from the Williams Institute, West Virginia actually has the highest percentage of 13 to 17-year-olds who identify as trans in the country. That's 1,150 teens who identify as trans, just in that age group. (And yet not a single incidence of sports domination he can name to warrant the need for legislation. Go figure.)

More journalists pushing lawmakers to back up bigoted bills with actual evidence, please.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Officer Stagg meeting Sherry Smith on WISH-TV.

Indianapolis Police Officer Jeff Stagg selflessly maintained the roadside memorial of Shelby Smith, who had been killed by a drunk driver. He picked up trash and placed little plastic flowers, figurines and rocks around it to keep it presentable. Though Shelby died nearly 22 years ago, Officer Stagg didn't want her to be forgotten. And now, his act of kindness won't be forgotten either.

Passerby Kaleb Hall (@kalebhall00 on TikTok) noticed the officer cleaning up the site and asked him what he was doing here. Kaleb had already thought the behavior a little uncharacteristic, "a cop cleaning up trash in the hood," so he went over to inquire.

After explaining that Shelby's memorial was in his patrol area and that he guessed her family had moved away, Officer Stagg told Kaleb, "no one's keeping it up anymore, so I just wanna make sure it stays kept up."

Stagg had noticed the memorial had become surrounded by overgrown grass, weeds and trash. After driving past it every day, Officer Stagg thought enough was enough.


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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."