Gov. Mark Gordon sounded hopping mad when he finally addressed one of the biggest social and moral issues of our time.


I’m talking, of course, about Wyoming’s new ban on transgender girls competing in middle- and high-school female sports events.

In his message to lawmakers, the Republican called the legislation “overly draconian,” which is at least one step more severe than “average draconian.” He called Senate File 133 – Student Eligibility in Interscholastic Sports discriminatory because it “pays little attention to the fundamental principles of equality.” Actually, it pays absolutely no attention to these principles the Equality State supposedly holds so dear.

The governor also correctly noted the Wyoming High School Activities Association has had a system since 2014 to consider the issue at the local level, by people who know the trans student athletes.

How many appeals of those decisions have been heard by the association? Commissioner Ron Laird said not even one. Yet the bill creates a new statewide commission to hear such cases.

There’s also the monetary impact of the state’s ban. Senate File 133 originally set aside $30,000 for litigation, then $1 million, before finally settling on $100,000. It likely won’t be enough for the attorney general’s office to fully defend the state’s legal position on an unconstitutional law that Gordon called “an invitation to a lawsuit.”

Of the 18 other states that have passed similar bills since 2020, four are tied up in courts: Idaho, West Virginia, Indiana and Utah.

“It is difficult for me to sign legislation into law that knowingly will cost the state and taxpayers money to litigate and may be challenged under Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause,” Gordon wrote.

And yet all these reasons were apparently not enough to compel Gordon to veto SF 133; he simply allowed the bill and its unfair, destructive policies to become state law without his signature.

Now I’m the one who is hopping mad.

A look at the number of trans students affected by bills like SF 133 strips the far-right’s depiction of a horde of students listed as males on their birth certificates ready to crush the biologically female competition. There is no scientific basis for believing all trans girls are stronger, better athletes than their cisgender competitors.

Out of about 91,000 students in the K-12 public school system, Wyoming has only four transgender students competing in school athletics, according to Gordon.

Given the litany of objections the governor had, I don’t see how in good conscience he didn’t veto the bill.

Other states that have recently passed bans have even fewer. Kentucky has one trans middle-schooler who plays on the girls’ field hockey team. South Dakota and Tennessee each have had one trans student play school sports, but both were trans boys, who are not covered by the Wyoming law.

According to Huff Post, pre-ban last year at least five states did not have any recorded cases of trans athletes playing school sports: Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia.

This is a pathetic far-right talking point that has turned a few loud parents and grandparents into anti-trans crusaders at school board and legislative meetings throughout the nation.

Often there wasn’t even a constituent outcry for action. Sen. Wendy Schuler (R-Evanston) explained she sponsored the failed “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” in 2022 because a friend complained that her daughter — who was competing in another state — might quit sports because a trans athlete defeated her. That’s hardly a clarion call for abusive legislation.

But Schuler returned this year with SF 133, which had momentum from the start. The bill passed 28-3 in the Senate and 51-10 in the House. But it had  detractors, including Rep. Karlee Provenza (D-Laramie), who said the Wyoming bill is part of a national movement.

“There are people who are pushing for these [anti-trans] ideas because they don’t intend to stop [with a ban],” she said. “Any infringement on the rights of a minority is an infringement on all of our rights.” 

The next week, right-wing commentator Michael Knowles of the Daily Wire proved Provenza’s point. “Transgenderism must be eradicated from public life,” Knowles told the Conservative Political Action Committee. 

Despite such loathsome, threatening rhetoric, there are already signs mainstream Republicans aren’t happy with the way transgender students are treated. A recent PBS/NPR/Marist poll found two-thirds of Americans, including 66% of Republicans, oppose these bans.

In his letter to legislators, Gordon said transgender youth face significant challenges in their daily lives, including high rates of bullying, discrimination and suicide. “Wyoming continues to lead the nation in suicide rates, and I am concerned that by enacting a ban, we may be pushing these students farther down this road, rather than finding ways to support them,” the governor wrote.

Gordon allowed the bill to become law, he said, because of the “political reality that will prolong these divisive debates.” It’s true SF 133 passed by such overwhelming margins in both chambers, members could have easily overridden a gubernatorial veto.

But by holding onto the bill until March 17, long after the Legislature adjourned, Gordon had the upper hand with a veto. Even if it upset the 79 lawmakers who voted for the trans ban, there was nothing they could do because they can’t call a special session just to consider a veto.

I think many of those lawmakers would have welcomed Gordon’s veto because their votes for the bill were driven by political calculus, not a belief such a policy was actually necessary. 

What better way for lawmakers who are continually blasted by Wyoming Republican Party officials as RINOs — the derisive designation for “Republicans in name only” — to prove their conservative credentials? Voting for the ban may keep some moderates from facing an extreme-right  primary challenge in 2024, but shamefully it comes at a cost to trans students. 

Given the litany of objections the governor had, I don’t see how in good conscience he didn’t veto the bill. As governor, Gordon has a responsibility to reject a terrible measure that only exacerbates inequality on the basis of sex and gender identity, needlessly eliminates a system built on local control and will cost the state a boatload of money when the inevitable lawsuits are filed.

Rep. John Bear (R-Gillette), head of the Wyoming Freedom Caucus, warned Gordon that he should be wary of making bill decisions so late in the game.

“I find it troubling that the decision-making process has taken this long,” Bear told Cowboy State Daily before Gordon’s final action on the bill. Caucus Vice Chair Rep. Jeremy Haroldson (R-Wheatland) not-too-subtly suggested the delay could impact Gordon’s political future, if he has one.

Leaders of the state GOP haven’t respected Gordon since he beat more conservative rivals in 2018. If he decides to make a bid for Congress, Gordon can’t count on any support from Wyoming Republican Party leadership, unless so-called RINOs unexpectedly take over.

Even then, it would be difficult to explain to voters why he didn’t have the political courage to veto a trans sports ban that he justifiably and thoroughly trashed. 

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. There are only two genders, male and female. No amount of drugs or surgery can change that. Students that are biological males should not be allowed to compete
    in biological female sports or vice versa.

  2. Nationally, it is guesstimated that for every 100,000 people there are 0.003 Trans people. Why is the GOP so focused on this “threat?” Because it is so alien, weird and icky to the ignorant fundie, that it is easy to work them into a lather. Not designed to attract independents, but only to whip up the base.

  3. Excellent analysis Drake, thanks to treating this topic with insight and respect. And shame on Gordon for such a lack of courage.

  4. Look back at the hundreds of bills that could have and should have been addressed but died on the vinde. Look around at all the issues the Lej should be dealing with ( start with Tax Reform and work your way down.

    Then look at THIS bill that did consume valuable Lej time and the Governor’s perverse action.

    Do you begin to see the problem ?

  5. Because he is a coward, plain and simple. For whatever reason, he is in mortal fear of confronting the crazies that dominate his party. His cowardice cannot be explained by fear or being primaried. He is term limited in his present office and Wyoming republicans will never nominate him to another statewide office. Probably could not be nominated as mayor of Buffalo.

  6. To bad our governor lacks the courage to do what’s right! The two abortion bills are going to be challenged. I believe one is going to be challenged today .

    The transgender will probably be challenged. It could cost the taxpayers a lot of Money. That should be a concern of the Guv. in his decision

    Transgender issues did not really appear until the great orange blob made them issues. It appears that the transgender issue was being handled at the local level where it probably should be handled. Leave it alone…

    This country was great until the orange one screwed it up big time. Nobody even knew what wokism was until the soon to be in jail, ex-president made it a big deal

    CRT was a Master or PHD level class in a few colleges across the country. I have read a lot on it and it is pretty fascinating but, a 5 grader is not going to understand it. A high schooler is not going to understand it. I have a Masters Degree and a lot of years in investigating EEOC cases. A lot of the information I read on CRT, I had to read several times to understand it.

    Wyoming was a great state as I was growing up there were no bad politics. There were people disagreeing on things Issues got resolved and laws got passed. No fighting in the aisles

    I have not seen a rating by grade of this legislature. F minus is too high for them.
    I guess as most of these legislatures are zeros we could either give them a zero or an incomplete with failure to accomplish of anything. They had some money to make Wyoming great again and they stored it away. You don’t build the future by stashing cash for a rainy. You invest it in our future which is our children.

    We have the highest rate of suicides in the country, but what’s more important, preventing suicides, or how to deal with for transgender student athletes.

    I have known several people people that have committed suicide over the years.
    I do not know anyone that is transgender.

    These far right whackos need to crawl back in their holes and stop ruining Wyoming.


  7. Kerry Drake:
    “There is no scientific basis for believing all trans girls are stronger, better athletes than their cisgender competitors.”

    Study from University of São Paulo:
    “In a new study, researchers at the University of São Paulo assessed the strength and aerobic ability of transgender women undergoing long-term hormone therapy as well as those of cisgender men and women matched by age and physical activity levels. The researchers found that transgender women had about 40% greater muscle mass than cisgender women. Moreover, they were about 19% stronger and had 20% greater cardiopulmonary capacity. By current NCAA and Olympic rules, these women are allowed to compete in women’s sporting events…Even after a decade of hormone therapy, trans women are stronger and faster than cis women.”

    Drake is either 1) unaware, or 2) disingenuous. I think ‘disingenuous’ is probably where the truth resides. Why? Because of his two carefully chosen words – NO and ALL. In logic ‘no’ and ‘all’ are absolute, meaning no exceptions. Drake is technically correct, which is to say his claim is as the writer of Ecclesiastes when he addresses life under the sun – it is vacuous, empty and vain. How is that?

    Well, even I agree with his statement, i.e., there are NO studies that conclude ALL trans athletes are stronger or better. Of course not! Science doesn’t work that way. Drake knows that and careful readers know that as well, which is why I have chosen disingenuous as the best descriptor. He simply wanted to make casual readers think that ‘unfair advantage’ has no basis in science, but that’s NOT what his statement means. No, it simply means that there are no studies that demonstrate that ALL trans athletes are superior. which is to state the obvious and its IRRELEVANCY. No one would affirm what he is denying. Such a state of affairs is so improbable that it’s virtually impossible, and he knows that – hence, I have chosen disingenuous to describe his attempt at communication.

    PS. I do appreciate and value WyoFile News, but can you provide a counterpart to Drake’s ideological commitments? It would seem a trusted news outlet would strive for truth over simply presenting one narrative, even in the opinion articles. If you do have such counterbalance (I don’t get to read you as often as I’d like), then I withdraw my statement & request, but without such a person, your desire to be a trusted source suffers in your ideological presentation.

    1. It’s an opinion article…. says it right across the top.

      There are plenty of other op-ed articles avaliable that would be more in line with your beliefs. Perhaps you should search them out instead of telling wyofile how to do their job.

      1. Hi Chuck,
        Yes, Chuck, I know it’s an opinion article. I explicitly said so in my original comments, i.e., “even in the opinion articles.” The issue is inclusiveness. I think as a news source it would seek diversity and not one constant ideological presentation; after all, it is said that Wyoming is the reddest state in the union, so why not include their worldview in the opinion entries?

        1. Inclusiveness for whom?

          Inclusiveness for those who feel excluding trans/gay/women and minorities is necessary? Read some of the comments, the bigoted and ignorant are well represented here.

          If you feel like you need company while being intolerant, bigoted, and/or xenophobic then that burden is on you.

          Wyofile has no obligation to cater to your needs.

        2. The worldview of those who make Wyoming the reddest state in the union is shoved in our faces constantly through the actions of the state legislature, local school boards and the opinion pages of any number of other publications, so why would Wyofile feel any obligation to include it in their opinon pieces?

    2. Nate,

      While you didn’t cite the source of your quotation about the Sao Paolo study I was able to find it.


      It’s worth noting it states, “The research is undeniably limited by a small sample size. It also didn’t look at high school or even college-aged students, about whom much of the societal debate over transgender women’s participation in sports takes place.”

      1. Yes, Chris, I saw that as well. Every study has its limitations, small sample group, non-random, etc. This study was no exception, but in searching for it, I’m sure (as I did) you came across others that had similar conclusions. Of course, the main point is Drake’s choice of words. By using ALL he can correctly state “There is no scientific basis…” But that is simply to state the obvious. I could say that for any empirical truth claim in any body of literature.

  8. Thank you Kerry. Not sure why one would want to be elected to govern if they are unwilling to lead based on their views and beliefs.

    1. In Gordon’s attempt to keep his distance and not upset the freedumb caucus, it showed he doesn’t have much of a backbone.

      The gullible ol’ party has two factions. The chicken little types who are afraid of everything. Or the spineless that are afraid of upsetting the fantasy believing other faction.

  9. This is an excellent analysis and interpretation, thank you Mr. Drake and WyoFile.
    I for one am just depressed by all the things this case tells us about our state: we have mediocre leadership, lots of bigotry, unconstitutional religious mania, illogic, and a disproportionate obsession with sports.

  10. Political courage was indeed lacking as women’s and tran’s rights are eliminated. And they wonder why young people are leaving Wyoming.

  11. It is my understanding that letting a bill go into law without the Executive Branch’s blessing gives the law “less standing” when being litigated? It would seem a valid assertion in my view. Most consider this an issue in search of a problem, so why veto it and give the repugnant views of Freedom Caucus more oxygen?

    Gordon already showed his lack of christian character by pleading for five million Wyoming tax payer dollars so he could bus immigrants around the US or hang out on the southern border during the 2024 election cycle shaking his fist at brown people and Biden.

  12. Too bad government is more concerned with sex in all its variations (including women’s control of their own bodies) than governing. Sounds like a personal problem.

  13. This is BS. Males and females are built differently for a reason, but that reason is NOT so males can compete against girls in sports to be able to “win”. They are physically different. What’s next letting 2nd string high schoolers compete against junior high kids so they can win? Males and females can compete mentally, but not physically. Trans or whatever has nothing to do with physical ability differences. Males are usually bigger and stronger.

  14. With all due respect, as a former long distance runner who was a girl competing in high school sports and then as a Division I young lady on scholarship in track and cross-country, I do not believe in allow any transgender competitors to compete with their biological opposites. Since this seems to be the high moral issue of the day, it’s time to give transgenders their own category to compete in. Especially since it’s believed that there is “no scientific basis” that they are at a disadvantage, should be fine for transgender males and females to compete in the same category together and feel the comaradiere they so desire and promote their category as fair and fun.

  15. I appreciate this coverage Kerry. Political courage seems to be in short supply across this country.

  16. I can’t imagine why Gov. Gordon is going against his conscience on this, or any issue. He is term-limited from seeking the governorship again, and the loathsome people who represent us in Congress will have a lock on those seats till they die, so what other run is he considering, I can’t help but wonder? Are there possibly enough RINOs with any spine and enough Democrats to elect Gordon over Hagaman, Barrasso, or Lummis?

    1. Only 4 students this year. And, 4 students in 2024 and 4 in 2025, and and and. It adds up. What about the rights of hundreds of “real” girls who get beat out of their chance to excel by pretenders.