SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Governor Spencer Cox says he is not comfortable with a bill that would prevent transgender children from playing in female sports. The Governor has a strong message to state leadership surrounding House Bill 302 and the issue of transgender youth participating in girls’ sports.

“If you have not spent time with transgender youth, then I would encourage you to pause on this issue,” Gov. Cox says. “We have so many people who are in a very difficult spot right now. And we have very few if any transgender girls participating in sports.”

Here’s why he says that.

“These kids are, they are just trying to stay alive. You know, there is a reason none of them are playing sports,” says the Governor. “And so, I just think there is a better way, and I hope that there will be enough grace in our state to find a better solution.”

The bill sponsored by Representative Kera Birkeland, (R) Morgan, passed through the State House of Representatives and is now headed to the State Senate.

The Governor believes Rep. Birkeland is genuinely concerned but says this is an issue every state faces, and both sides are right.

Gov. Cox says, “I don’t understand all of this; I don’t, but I’m trying to understand more, I’m trying to listen and learn, and again trying to help kids figure out who they are, and to keep them alive.”

Transgender Education Advocates of Utah‘s Executive Director Dr. Candice Metzler says the governor’s message to lawmakers is helpful.

“The problem we have in Utah is not transgender kids competing in sports. We have problems with our transgender kids staying in school,” she says. “I think it was what was needed. I think these young people needed to hear someone speaking to them telling them that they’re seen and their needs matter and they should hear that from their governor. That’s a beautiful thing.”

Gov. Cox adds “When you spend time with these kids, it changes your heart in important ways.”

State senators can pass the bill as is, make revisions, send it back to the House to be voted on, or kill the bill altogether.