Sundance 2023: I’m Boycotting Due to Utah Trans Athlete Ban

Egyptian Marquee, 2015. © 2015 Sundance Institute | Photo by Jemal Countess.

Because of the Utah transgender athlete ban, I will have no choice but to boycott the future editions of the Sundance Film Festival.

An increasing number of states have decided to ban transgender athletes from playing sports. This is certainly unacceptable. As a transgender American, I cannot in good conscience spend money in any of these states where anti-trans hate is on the books. Moreover, I cannot in good conscience cover film festivals within these states, either in person or remotely. I will miss making the trip west to Park City for over a week and a half. Utah’s state legislators have shown this week that they don’t want my money. Despite the best efforts of Utah Governor Spencer Cox, bigoted legislators have decided that banning trans athletes is worth the economic impact.

The group Visit Salt Lake, which hosts conferences, shows and events, said the override could cost the state $50 million in revenue. The Utah-based DNA-testing genealogy giant also opposed it.

Salt Lake City is set to host the NBA All-Star game in February 2023. League spokesman Mike Bass said the league is “working closely” with the Jazz on the matter. The team is partially owned by NBA all-star Dwyane Wade, who has a transgender daughter.

Utah Republican House Speaker Brad Wilson can shut the fuck up. This bill certainly has nothing to do with protecting women’s sports. The only thing it does will be to remove transgender Americans out of public life–this has been the conservative agenda all along. They lost the gay marriage fight. As such, they’re taking it out on transgender Americans.

“I hope the NBA and other groups understand that our intent here is to protect women sports and keep women’s sports safe and competitive. And if they have thoughts on how best to do that, we’d be happy to chat with them,” said Utah Republican House Speaker Brad Wilson.

Utah taxpayers are going to be footing the bill for the inevitable lawsuits. This is because their legislators made sure upon overriding the veto.

The threat of lawsuits worried school districts and the Utah High School Athletic Association, which has said it lacks funds to defend the policy in court. Lawmakers also amended the ban on Friday to provide taxpayer dollars to underwrite fees from potential lawsuits and insulate districts and the association from liability.

I hope the ACLU and others manage to sue Utah into bankruptcy. This is the cost of signing hate into law. Let’s hope that the courts rule similarly to the recent ban in West Virginia. The ruling was cited by both Indiana and Utah governors in their decision to veto the transphobic bigotry.

After missing out on two years of Park City, I was looking forward to making my return. However, just like SXSW, there will be no return. I do not economically support states that have anti-trans laws on the books. Why should I? They want to legislate transgender people out of public life. All across America, people are not seeing the bigger picture. Conservatives want transgender people to just go away. They would rather we just kill ourselves. Guess what? We’re here and not going anywhere. Or at least I’m not stepping foot within any state that has anti-transgender laws on the books. I cannot stress this enough. I’ll gladly attend Tribeca and Toronto in the future. However, there will be no future Sundance or SXSW Film Festivals for me. As long as hatred is on the goods, the states will not get my money.

I wish this wasn’t the case. Sundance is one of the biggest film festivals of the year. But just like SXSW, I am leaving money on the table by not attending. Should I ever have a film to submit to film festivals, they’ll only be submitted to states that don’t have transphobic bigotry written into law.

Conservatives do not care about protecting women’s sports. Why was there so much outrage when Simone Biles withdrew from Olympic events? If there were any remote concern for protecting women’s sports, there would have been no outrage. At the end of the day, they don’t care about an athlete’s mental health, they only care if they are cisgender. Because if they really cared about athletes, they wouldn’t be contributing to the high suicide rate among the transgender community. They don’t care about trans folks and they don’t want you to care either. You and I both know what it is all about–removing trans people out of public life. Whether it is the bathrooms or a sporting event, they clearly don’t care about the impact. All these conservatives can go fuck themselves.

I hope filmmakers, journalists, and other Sundance moviegoers join me in not covering or attending Sundance next year. It is with great sadness that it has come to this decision but transphobic bigotry means that I cannot step foot nor will I have any part in economically supporting Utah. They are bound to lose the 2023 NBA All Star Game barring a lawsuit that overturns this bullshit law. It is nothing more than hate–it’s not about protecting women’s sports and never was. It has always been about legislating transgender people out of existence. Judging by the transphobia that I’ve experience from liberals (including, sadly, within Jewish anti-hate groups) this week, the conservatives are doing a wonderful job at selling their message. I’ll reconsider if a judge blocks the law but for now, I will have nothing to do with helping the Utah economy.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.