A Democratic state lawmaker in Alabama championed transgender student athletes last week. But he later revealed that he doesn’t actually know what “transgender” means and advocated DNA testing of athletes to determine their sex.
John Rogers spoke out against the Gender is Real Legislative Act during a hearing on Thursday at the Alabama Legislature in Montgomery. The Republican-backed bill would ban students in the state’s public schools from competing in gender-specific sports that do not match their biological sex.
In a bizarre argument against the GIRL Act, Rogers claimed to know of “about 20 football players who are transgender.”
“Matter of fact, my favorite player is transgender,” Rogers said, adding that the athlete was about to be cut because of his gender identity. “He plays pretty good football.”
When a woman who spoke against the bill at the hearing asked whom Rogers was referring to, he said, “I don’t recall his name.”
The legislation, HB 35, which opposed by all five speakers on the day, failed to advance out of the committee. But its sponsor, Republican state representative Chris Pringle, expressed confidence that it would become law.
Republicans hold 27 of the Alabama Legislature’s 35 seats.
John Rogers defines “transgender”
In a phone interview with Pluralist on Monday, Rogers, 79, reiterated what he told Alabama’s Yellowhammer News after Thursday’s hearing. He said the “favorite player” he had alluded to was Cam Newton, a quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, who is said to be leaving the team.
According to Yellowhammer, Rogers told their reporter he meant to say Newton was gay rather than transgender.
However, when questioned by Pluralist, Rogers offered a different explanation. He said his point had been that “a lot of people in the NFL have accused Cam Newton and other players of being” transgender — not that he had personal knowledge of the athletes’ gender identity.
“I brought [Newton] up because there are a lot of insinuations about a lot of people who play athletics, whether they are transgender or not, and you never know,” he said. “Why would you point at someone if you don’t know and no test has been done?”
Newton, who recently had a baby with his longtime girlfriend, is not thought to be either transgender or gay. No transgender women are known to play in the NFL.
Asked how he defines transgenderism, Rogers described something like intersexuality, the term LGBT media watchdog GLAAD prefers to “hermaphrodite,” which it deems “derogatory.”
“When you’re born, sometimes people are born a hermaphrodite,” Rogers said. “They’re born as a boy but they have other chromosomes of a girl, or they’re born as a girl but they have other chromosomes of a boy. Sometimes, the gender doesn’t take effect until later in life. That’s science. It’s x and y chromosomes.”
Rogers said he opposes the GIRL Act because it a “mean-spirited, ridiculous bill” that “singles out” homosexuals and “hermaphrodites.”
DNA tests for transgender students?
Pluralist explained to Rogers that the legislation has nothing to do with gay or intersex students and that transgender people by definition identify as a gender other than their biological sex. With that in mind, Pluralist asked Rogers how he would determine who can compete in gender-specific school sports.
Rogers went on to advocate an even more hardline conservative policy than his Republican colleagues. He said that student athletes should undergo genetic testing to determine whether they are male or female. The sex of transgender students, or as he sometimes called them, “hermaphrodites,” should be determined by a majority of their chromosome pairs, he said.
“You need to get medical proof of what they really are: a boy or a girl. They need to have more x chromosomes than Y chromosomes — which gender is prominent,” he said. “Go with the test. Go with the biology.”
When it comes to assigning athletes to sports teams, Rogers said: “If a person ends up being male, they can compete as male, and if they end up being a female they can compete as female.”
By contrast, the GIRL Act calls for student athletes’ sex to be determine by their birth certificate.
Roger’s view of a gender binary defined by biology is directly at odds with the ideology of transgender rights. As reflected in GLAAD’s transgender guidelines, the movement has sought to privilege gender identity over biological sex.
It’s hard to get “woke”
This is not the first time Rogers, who has represented Alabama House District 50 since 1982, has seemed confused about why he supports an article of progressive orthodoxy.
Last year, during a debate over an abortion ban that passed the legislature, Rogers protested the law by saying: “Some kids are unwanted, so you kill them now, or you kill them later.”
“You bring them in the world unwanted, unloved,” he continued. “You send them to the electric chair. So, you kill them now, or you kill them later.”
Rogers later explained to AL.com that he is a Catholic who is personally opposed to abortion. But he defers to his “pro-choice” district, which includes parts of Birmingham.
“I can’t put my beliefs above the people in my district. I can’t run on my religion. I run on what the people believe, and they believe in pro-choice,” he said.
Regarding the GIRL Act, Rogers told Yellowhammer that his constituents wanted him to “kill the bill,” so he drove “100 miles per hour” to get to the hearing.