US

11-year-old trans girl files lawsuit after being banned from her school’s running team

Vic Parsons June 6, 2021
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West Virginia: 11-year-old girl challenges transphobic school sports ban

Becky Pepper-Jackson comes from a family of avid runners. (ACLU)

An 11-year-old trans kid and her mum have filed a lawsuit in West Virginia to allow her to run on the girls’ team at school.

Becky Pepper-Jackson, a cross country runner, was told by her school principal in May that if she wanted to try out for a team it would have to be the boys’ team.

This is because of an anti-trans West Virginia bill that was “proudly” signed into law by Republican governor Jim Justice on 28 April.

The law prohibits trans girls and women in West Virginia from competing on a women’s sports team in “any public secondary school or state institution of higher education”, HB3292 states.

It forces all students to provide their birth certificates when enrolling at a new school and mandates they must play on the single-sex sports team according to their “sex at the time of birth”.

“I was always like, ‘I want to run,'” said Becky, now 11, who grew up running with her mum and watching her older brothers race cross-country.

She told The Lily that when she reached sixth grade, she expected to try out for the cross-country team.

When she learned that the new law meant she could only try out for the boy’s team, because of the law against trans athletes in West Virginia, she and her mum decided to challenge the law in court.

“I felt horrible because I knew then I couldn’t run with the other girls,” said Becky, who was previously an elementary school cheerleader. She started talking to her mum about how they could fight back and landed on the idea of a lawsuit.

“I said, ‘OK. We have to do this,'” Becky said.

Her mum, Heather Jackson, said: “She’s not doing this just for herself. She wants to help other kids who are just like her.”

The trans kid and her mum are suing the West Virginia State Board of Education with support from the ACLU, seeking an injunction against the anti-trans law that would stop it from taking effect. A similar anti-trans sports bill in Idaho, the first of its kind in the US, was quickly overturned by the courts in 2020.

“We’ve had years and, in some cases, decades of inclusion… and just quite simply there are no examples of trans people taking over or winning in any sort of significant numbers,” Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at ACLU, told The Washington Post.

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