Here’s How a Long Island Roller Derby Team Is Fighting a Trans Sports Ban in Their County

“The public and specifically conservative media gets focused on trans athletes that are playing in the NCAAs or in the Olympics or whatever,” Grey-Owens says. “And they’re not thinking about the 5- or 6-year-old little trans girl who wants to play soccer. And when you break it down, you say, ‘You are actually attacking our kids. This is the next generation. Have you thought about that?’”

Sports can be life-saving outlets for trans people. So even when these bans are struck down quickly or never passed in the first place, they and the rhetoric surrounding them have a proven negative mental health impact. For example, a 2021 policy review by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, found that trans youth are more likely to experience negative mental health effects, including suicidality, when faced with gender-exclusive policies like sports policies. That’s why trans people argue that bans like Blakeman’s are actually about far more than just regulating so-called “fairness” in athletics: They’re about erasing trans people from public life.

“I knew I was nonbinary when I was a little kid going to swimming class with my mom at the Y, and I felt weird about going into the girls’ locker room because I’m like, ‘But I’m not one,’” says Katie Hawkland, an organizing director for the Long Island Progressive Coalition. “Little kids who are like us who live in this current world, I know they’re … thinking, ‘[Anti-trans advocates] don’t want us to exist, period.’”

Though the executive order applies to only girls’ and women’s teams and leagues, and does not exclude transfeminine athletes from mixed-gender teams, it’s hard to imagine LGBTQ+ people in Nassau feeling safe playing public sports, period. Devon Zappasodi, the director of the Long Island nonprofit PFY, which serves queer people and their allies, says his team may occasionally seek to use Nassau volleyball courts at events. “We will not allow trans folks or nonbinary folks to not be part of the sports festivities,” he says. “That’s so discriminatory.”

In a conservative outpost of a consistently liberal state, it can be difficult enough as is for trans and gender-nonconforming people to go about their everyday lives.

“Long Island can be a tough place to live and a tough place to organize,” says Ezra Scollo, a trans man who teaches pole dance and aerial classes and who was a former cheerleader on Long Island’s Suffolk County (which has not enacted a similar ban). He attended the protest of Blakeman’s ban organized by Grey-Owens. “There are a lot of armed and violent hate groups on Long Island that are only going to be more empowered the more they’re given.”

Curly Fry also says the effects of anti-trans rhetoric hit close to home.

“It definitely makes me fearful of being in spaces in Long Island sometimes,” they say. “Recently I was berated by someone on the Long Island Rail Road … for being queer. And so it’s hard to be like, ‘Oh, that’s not related at all.’”

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