Three bills filed in the North Carolina General Assembly last week would bar transgender athletes from playing on girls' high school and middle school sports teams.
House Bill 574 and Senate Bill 631, the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, would require teams participating in interscholastic and intramural athletic activities be “expressly designated by the biological sex of the team participants” and ensure that teams or sports “designated for females, women or girls shall not be open to students of the male sex.” The bill would also prevent girls from playing “sports designated for males, men or boys,” unless no comparable female team for the sport exists and the sport is not a “contact sport.”
Senate Bill 636, titled “School Athletic Transparency,” contains similar language to the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, asserting that student eligibility to participate in interscholastic athletic activities would be based on “biological participation requirements.” It further clarifies that sex refers to one’s “reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”
At least 20 states prior to North Carolina have already banned transgender athletes from playing on high school sports teams aligned with their gender identity.
On April 5, N.C. Rep. Tricia Cotham changed her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, providing the Republicans the one seat they needed to secure a veto-proof supermajority in the NC House of Representatives. With the already-held Senate supermajority, N.C. Republicans can now more easily advance legislation past a potential veto by Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat.
Sylvia Hatchell, former head coach of the North Carolina women’s basketball team, has indicated her support for the proposed legislation. Hatchell resigned in 2019 amid controversy surrounding complaints of “racially insensitive comments” and “pressure to play” when players were not medically ready.
“I support transgender athletes — their right to gender identity as they see fit,” Hatchell said at a recent press conference promoting the bill. “However, competitive sport is one of the few places in our society where sex differences matter.”
All 30 Republican senators are currently sponsors of the legislation, along with 42 out of the 72 Republicans in the House. According to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, there are currently about 15 transgender high school student athletes in the state, a fraction of the approximately 180,000 student athletes that participated last year.
“People are thinking that we have a major issue, and we really do not,” NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker told the News & Observer. “People are probably thinking that we just have all of these born males playing female sports, but that really isn’t the case in North Carolina."
Current NCHSAA rules require transgender student athletes wanting to play sports based on their gender identification to go through an extensive process that includes submitting a gender identity request form, written statements from other students, documentations regarding medications and treatments, and other information.
“These bills do nothing to address the real issues facing our youth, like gun violence in schools or the mental health crisis. Instead of working to make schools safe environments, our lawmakers are bullying queer and trans kids,” said Kendra Johnson, executive director of the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality NC, in a statement.
Conservatives argue that the legislation would establish fair standards for women’s sports and reinforce Title IX. Republican Sen. Vicki Sawyer touted the bill as one that would enhance the health and safety of women, referencing an incident at Hiwassee Dam High School last fall that left a female volleyball player injured due to a spike from a transgender athlete.
Republicans in the NC General Assembly also filed other bills targeting transgender people last week, including bills that would restrict gender-affirming treatment for minors.
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Jazper Lu is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.