Bloomington family fights for transgender daughter amid bill banning her from girls' sports

Kirin Clawson poses in front of family pictures at her home on Wednesday.
When Kirin Clawson turned around 2 years old, she refused to leave the house unless she was wearing a tutu. She would throw a tantrum if she just wore her boy clothes.
When her parents, Beth and Nathaniel Clawson, saw that she felt more like herself in girly clothes, they went out and bought her a pair of "Frozen"-style shoes from Smith's Shoe Center, which she never took off.
By the time she was 3, Kirin was living as herself. She started making the transition in preschool, which means using correct pronouns and buying clothes she feels comfortable in.
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Now she is a 9-year-old transgender girl in third grade at Childs Elementary School. She's outspoken, precocious, and funny, and she plays roller derby, plays volleyball, and is a damn good swimmer, Beth said.
Kirin was always accepted by her classmates and family. But the Indiana legislature keeps trying to pass laws that tell them they don't belong.
What does house bill 1041 say?
The Indiana House last week passed legislation, HB 1041, banning transgender girls from playing sports in elementary, middle and high schools. It passed 66-30 and is now in the hands of the State Senate.
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The bill's author, State Rep. Michelle Davis, R-Whiteland, said the bill aims to ensure girls' athletics remain fair because transgender girls could have a physiological advantage over cisgender girls.
The Indiana High School Athletic Association already has a policy that requires transgender girls who want to play sports to show they have had at least a year of hormonal treatment and that their muscle mass or bone density is comparable to other girls their age matches.
The bill was firmly opposed by the ACLU, which has said it will challenge the bill in court if it is signed into law, as well as members of the LGBTQ community and parents of trans children.
Kirin Clawson poses with her parents Beth Clawson (left) and Nathaniel Clawson (right) at her home on Wednesday.
Nathaniel, who testified at the Statehouse last week, is one of them.
He spoke about Kirin and how she won't go through high testosterone puberty. How her peers see her as a girl since they've known her. How she only ever saw herself as a girl.
"There are so many life lessons that kids learn through exercise, and they build stronger friendships with their peers," he said. "It's those life lessons that I've been most worried about my daughter missing out on."
Stand up for yourself
As Kirin got older, she learned to stand up for herself and take the space she deserves, Beth said. But earlier in her daughter's life, Beth was hesitant to take her to sports with other girls for fear of what they might say to her.
"I discouraged their interest in things, especially swimming and gymnastics, because they're leotards and swimsuits," she said. "Of course, as a family, we now know that gender has nothing to do with body parts, but much of the world doesn't understand that."
Beth said she understands that all children should have the opportunity to compete fairly, but banning transgender girls from participating in girls' athletics would create much bigger problems.
"My daughter's mental health and well-being is far more important than your child's medal or record," she said.
According to an annual survey by the Trevor Project, a national nonprofit focused on preventing suicide among LGBTQ youth, in 2020 52% of transgender and nonbinary people in the US were seriously considering suicide. The survey is based on the experiences of nearly 35,000 LGBTQ people aged 13 to 24 across the country.
Bloomington, especially Childs Elementary, has always accepted, Beth and Nathaniel agreed. The day after Nathaniel testified at the statehouse, Kirin's teacher allowed her to wear her transgender pride flag all day and give a presentation to her classmates about what it means to be transgender. Every year, Kirin comes to her class—mostly the same students she's been with since kindergarten—because she feels she needs it and feels comfortable doing so.
Inside the Statehouse: The Indiana legislature is moving forward with legislation banning transgender girls from girls' sports
Some proponents of anti-trans legislation have argued that children cannot develop gender identities at such young ages and that parents of transgender children mutilate them. If these people could see Kirin and how happy she is in her body, Beth said, maybe they wouldn't feel the same way.
develop identity
When Kirin was young, Beth and Nathaniel began requesting letters from her pediatrician confirming that she was being cared for and not abused. They keep a folder with the letters so they have evidence if social services or anyone else asks if Kirin is living safely at home.
And even if Kirin one day decides that she's not transgender, Beth and Nathaniel won't regret it.
"Our whole thought process is if she changes her mind, at least she will know that we have accepted her and that we love her," Nathaniel said.
The Clawsons are involved in a local group called TASC, the Trans and Allies Support Community, through which they met Jeanne Smith, a longtime Bloomington resident. Smith and the Clawsons talk about once a week, Beth said.
Smith, 69, has known she was transgender since she was five. She spent her life hiding her true identity until she was 55.
"I tried not to be trans for 50 years until I realized I had a soul," she said.
Smith said if transgender girls are banned from playing girls' sports — and if other laws that harm the transgender community become law — it would instill fear in transgender youth and lead them to hide their identities, as they do has done.
"The state of Indiana is doing nothing to help the trans person," she said. "You're putting them in the worst possible situation."
At least half a dozen bills affecting transgender people were introduced in Indiana early in the 2022 legislative session. Other bills included banning underage medical endorsements, restricting which bathrooms transgender people can use, and banning changing gender on a birth certificate. While they probably won't pass, Nathaniel said, it still hurts to see those bills filed.
Beth, Nathaniel and Jeanne, who are all heavily involved in the local transgender community, said they don't know of any other transgender girls in the area who are currently involved in sports.
But as long as they have Kirin, they will fight for her.
"We spend our days armed," Beth said. "A lot of people say, 'We're not rejecting your kid because they can still play boy sports.' But I don't think you can tell them, 'Be who you are, except when.' You have to have our kids all the time." leave them as they are.”
CORRECTION: The print version of this story in Sunday's Herald-Times incorrectly stated that Kirin Clawson was on hormones. She is not.
Contact Herald-Times reporter Christine Stephenson at cstephenson@heraldt.com.
This article originally appeared in The Herald-Times: Indiana Transgender Girls Sports Bill Urges Parents to Speak Up

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