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Trans cyclist speaks on Tenn. collegiate transgender athlete ban headed to governor's desk

“We’re in the middle of a real push to marginalize those already marginalized, those already made to feel outside the communities."

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For Dahron Johnson, a transgender athlete, competitive cycling means putting aside the concerns of her body. 

“Anytime that I set out on a ride, I felt like I was moving at least towards a sort of a middle ground where gender wasn't the primary focus, what the focus was my performance,” said Johnson.  

The cyclist believes the state is intent on doubling down on discriminatory attitudes. 

Monday a Tennessee bill, which wouldn’t allow trans athletes to join women’s collegiate sports teams passed the house and senate. 

In a statement, LGBTQ rights and public policy organization Tennessee Equality Project said, "We call on Governor Lee to veto SB2153/HB2316. Every part of this bill is unacceptable discrimination, but it is so extreme that it even bans trans women from participating in intramural sports at their schools."

“We’re in the middle of a real push to marginalize those already marginalized, those already made to feel outside the community's experience and this legislation does nothing but push those same folks further out into the margins,” Johnson said.  

Johnson served as president of a club cycling team in college and is currently a competitive cyclist.

“While they're still certainly might have been questions from time to time about what that was going to look like,” she said. “Those questions are not surprising given this horrible picture that's being painted by so many others.”

Bill sponsor Senator Joey Hensley argued the legislation is not discriminatory but creates a level playing field for athletes born female.

“There’s female athletes, especially on the college level that have trained all their lives to compete and we just need to make sure that’s a level playing field,” said Hensley, in a committee session on April 11.

“Senator Hensley has said, on this on this question that the best guy is always going to beat the best gal, or something close to that effect. First of all, that's a rather big presumption.”

House Bill sponsor Rep. John Ragan said in part in a  statement, “HB2316/SB2153 is an important step in protecting women’s rights in sports. It provides positive steps to ensure that female athletes are able to compete against their peers in safe and fair contests.”

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