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Shaw: Transgender athlete bill is a disgrace to North Dakota

Jim Shaw argues the transgender high school athlete bill in the North Dakota Legislature is a bill looking for a problem to fix.

Jim Shaw
Jim Shaw

FARGO — It is reprehensible that the North Dakota House of Representatives has passed a bill that orders transgender high school athletes to compete on sports teams that correspond with their sex assigned at birth. This is a bill looking for a problem to fix, when there is no problem. For years, transgender athletes have been playing on sports teams in North Dakota consistent with their gender identity, without any incidents.

There has never been a problem in the state, and the lawmakers know it. The lawmakers should focus on the many problems they can fix. Those problems include diabetics not being able to afford their lifesaving insulin, dozens of people dying in the state every year because we don’t have a primary seat belt law, and the severe underfunding of state colleges and universities.

What this bill does is make life even tougher for families with transgender people. Families such as the Williams family of Bismarck. Will, 15, is a high school freshman, who transitioned into a male. He is constantly harassed by some of his classmates. They call him a girl, tell him to leave the school, and tell him to go to the bathroom for girls.

“It’s crushing,” Will said. “I try not to let it get to me. It makes me angry. It’s just plain ignorant.”

The Williams family has been shunned and abandoned by many friends and relatives since Will started transitioning when he was 11.


“One relative said if you would just take him behind the woodshed and beat him, this would all go away,” said Dave Williams, Will’s father.

This bill is an attack against a very vulnerable group of people. A group that often suffers from mental health issues.

“This bill says we don’t belong here,” Will said. “It says we’re not welcome. It hurts.”

“This bill brings on the feeling that the world is against him," Dave said. “It says I am different and therefore I am bad. Bills like this give permission to bully. You can bully these people because they’re considered lesser. When they legislate this kind of stuff, it emboldens people.”

This bill is a disgrace to the state, and should be defeated in the senate. It’s transphobic. It promotes bigotry, discrimination, exclusion, and hatred. The lawmakers should look at this from the perspective of being a frightened transgender teenager. At the least, the legislators should just leave transgender teenagers alone, and simply let them live their lives.

Speaking of looking for a problem to fix, there’s the bill that overwhelmingly passed in the North Dakota House that would slash the number of early voting days from 15 to nine. In the 10 state counties that offer early voting, it’s very popular. In Cass County last fall, more residents participated in early voting, than by absentee voting or voting on Election Day. This bill is simply an ugly attempt at voter suppression.

Gotta go now. I’m meeting Ted Cruz in Cancun.

Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director. Email

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