ROCK HILL, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — In 2021, there was an event in Rock Hill that wound up being a lot more than organizers anticipated. Rock Hill Pride was an event that was put on with only about a month’s notice, and with entirely private support.
Organizers said the event showed how much love there is for the LGBTQ community in Rock Hill and York County, though they feel the love is not coming from certain locations, in town, and in the state of South Carolina.
“It doesn’t feel good,” said Alexis Oliva with Rock Hill Pride. “People in the LGBTQ community in Rock Hill have a list of places not to go to or avoid, because they are not accepted.”
That feeling, Oliva said, has been felt keenly in the last few months as discussion at the state legislature has ramped up in Columbia on what is known as the “Save Women’s Sports Act.”
The legislation would keep transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports at the public school and public university level. The South Carolina State House and Senate have come to a compromise on the bill, which is now at the desk of Governor Henry McMaster.
The bill’s most basic argument is that testosterone puts males, along with trans men and women, at an advantage in women’s sports. However, the bill allows women to compete in men’s sports.
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State Rep. Melissa Oremus was quoted on the State House floor during discussion of the bill. She said, “Why are we even thinking about this, if you have a little girl and you’re going to look her in the eye and put her on the basketball court with a man?”
Rock Hill Pride organizer Brittany Kelly countered: “Personally, for me, I have a daughter who is teetering on the line of gender questions and where they belong and fit,” she said. “I’ve always said that ‘gender is like a pair of shoes— we don’t notice it when they feel great and they feel good, until you get a rock in that show and it’s miserable every step of the way.'”
Terry Millett, who is president of Winthrop University’s SAGE group, noted that there have also only been five transgender athletes who have asked for exemptions to play on a sports team corresponding with their gender identity since 2016.
Rock Hill Pride will be back for a second year, with the festival coming at the end of June. The transgender sports bill may likely be a topic among the events, and organizers hope it will remain a conversation.
“We are a very progressive town, our arts community is thriving, we’re claiming to be ‘Rock Hill for all,'” said Kelly. “But we’re still stuck and not supporting our LGBTQ community.”
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