The Texas legislature appears close to passing a bill that would ban transgender student athletes from competing on sports teams that correspond with their gender, and yet the legislation has failed to draw so much as a mention from major corporate broadcast and cable TV news outlets.
More bills targeting trans people, especially trans youth, have been introduced in state legislatures this year than any year prior, and no state has pushed to pass more than Texas. House Bill 25 would force students at public schools to play on teams according to the sex they were assigned at birth. It represents the latest effort in Republicans’ unscientific and unfounded attack on trans athletes. This focus on trans participation in sports is rooted in an effort to turn trans rights into a wedge political issue and has in large part been led and championed by extreme anti-LGBTQ groups like Alliance Defending Freedom.
HB25 was introduced on September 24 and, after hours of emotional testimony from trans children and their parents, the bill passed through committee on October 6 and is now headed toward a vote in the full chamber. Eight-year-old Sunny was one of many to testify, saying:
Why are you attacking me? I'm really great. I have lots of friends, I love to read and I love playing sports like soccer and gymnastics. I shouldn't be here right now, I should be in school. Let me play with girls because I am a girl. Vote no on this bill.
HB25 is one of many attempts this year, including in regular and special sessions, by Texas Republicans to pass a bill targeting trans student athletes, with previous iterations passing the Senate before failing to either be brought up for a vote in the House or voted on before the session ended. This time, however, Republicans say they have enough votes to pass the legislation and they have nearly a week left to do so before the session ends. If HB25 does pass the House, there is likely nothing that can prevent it from becoming law, as previous bills have garnered majority support in the Senate, and Gov. Greg Abbott included the issue as a priority in his agenda for this current special session.
Although the deciding vote on the bill is likely only days away, and passage of HB25 would make Texas the tenth and largest state to pass a bill or policy targeting trans student athletes, a study by Media Matters shows that no TV news networks have discussed the bill on air. Media Matters reviewed news coverage from CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NBC, CBS, and ABC from September 20, the day HB25’s companion bill was introduced and four days before HB25 was introduced, through October 12 and found no mention of the legislation.
This lapse in coverage is especially egregious from mainstream media outlets that have historically struggled to adequately cover attacks on the trans community and that, when they do, often fail to do so with the community itself in mind. By ceding coverage of issues involving trans people to right-wing sources like Fox News, which has stoked fear around trans athletes at an unprecedented rate this year, they allow those who would make enemies out of trans children to control the narrative. Considering the broad bipartisan opposition Americans express to laws like HB25, increasing coverage could help hold those responsible for this sort of hateful legislation to account.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream and Kinetiq video databases for all original episodes of ABC’s Good Morning America, World News Tonight, and This Week; CBS’ This Morning, Evening News, and Face the Nation; NBC’s Today, Nightly News, and Meet the Press; and PBS’ NewsHour and for all original programming on cable networks CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC for any of the terms “trans," “transgender,” “transphobe,” “transphobic,” “transphobia,” “gender identity,” “gender nonconforming," “gender fluid," “nonbinary,” “transsexual,” “biological boy," “biological male,” “biological man," “biological men" “biological girl," “biological female,” “biological woman," or “biological women" within close proximity of the term “Texas” from September 20 through October 12, 2021.
We included segments about Texas House Bill 25 and its companion, Senate Bill 3 (the latest proposed bans on transgender student participation in youth sports in Texas), which we defined as instances when the ban was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the ban. We defined “significant discussion” as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the ban with one another. We did not include passing mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker mentioned the ban without another speaker engaging with the comment, or teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about the ban scheduled to air later in the broadcast.