This piece was originally published in the Austin American-Statesman. Tell your State Representative to vote NO on SB 29 and let transgender kids be kids. This is our last chance to stop this cruel attack on the childhood of transgender Texans.

As a transgender student athlete, I am tired of Texas lawmakers using transgender kids as political pawns without listening to what we have to say. Transgender students like me want to participate in sports, just like other kids, but some lawmakers are using us as a punching bag to score political points.

Two state legislators near where I live in Houston — Rep. Harold Dutton and Rep. Dan Huberty — recently voted to advance Senate Bill 29, which seeks to stop transgender youth from participating in sports as our authentic selves. Rep. Dutton admitted that he didn’t know how many kids this bill would affect and that he was moving SB 29 forward as a form of revenge over another bill. Rep. Huberty said that SB 29 didn’t seem that harmful.

Through my lived experience, I can tell you that SB 29 would hurt transgender student athletes across Texas by complicating currently harmful, unfair and discriminatory rules.

Rep. Huberty claims that SB 29 merely codifies existing University Interscholastic League (UIL) rules. But they are already discriminatory, rigidly requiring students to compete in sports based on the gender listed on their birth certificate. SB 29 goes even further and would force students to compete based on the “sex as correctly stated” on their birth certificates. This change in wording could cause some schools to intrusively inquire about students’ genitalia or private medical information to determine if someone’s sex is “correctly stated.” That would be wrong and could cause transgender youth a lot of deep harm.

I would know. I am a boy and all of my friends have known me as a boy throughout high school. When I joined marching band to make friends and have fun, I was treated as a boy. In my classes, my teachers and friends respect my name and pronouns. But as soon as I joined wrestling, I was separated from the boys and forced to wrestle with girls under UIL’s outdated and rigid rules. Unlike others, I wasn’t allowed to wrestle on the team that matches who I am.

Being forced to wrestle on the girls team has been horrible. At every wrestling meet, my short hair and masculine clothes make me stick out. Some of my teammates refuse to wrestle me and make fun of me. I’ve been bullied, harassed and injured by other wrestlers who perform illegal holds. Sometimes I come home from practice with bruises and my back hurts so badly that I can barely walk, but I try to hold my head high and keep pushing to prove to myself that I can wrestle.

When I shared my story with the House Public Education Committee on April 20, Rep. Huberty asked me what my record was in wrestling. “Terrible,” I responded, because so many girls refuse to wrestle a boy and forfeit matches. I hate that I have a bad record and wish desperately that I could wrestle with the boys team.

It’s a total myth that trans students like me are trying to “dominate” sports or beat our non-transgender peers. Even if I had been able to wrestle on the boys team, my record might have been far from perfect, but at least I would’ve had the chance to compete as I am.

Now that I’m a senior, I don’t want other trans kids to experience what I did. Everyone should be able to play sports as the person they truly are. We shouldn’t solidify prejudice into law to allow legislators to score cheap political points. Instead, we should give UIL, schools and coaches flexibility in allowing students to participate on the teams that are best for them.

Texas lawmakers should stop SB 29 from becoming law, stop messing with trans kids, and just let us play.