The governing body for Texas high school sports decided Monday to ask superintendents to determine whether to formalize a policy that uses student-athletes’ birth certificates to determine their gender.
Such a policy already is informally used by the body, the University Interscholastic League, or UIL, whose 32-member legislative council on Monday passed on an opportunity to vote on the proposed rule. Instead, the council decided to send it to the superintendents of member districts — with a recommendation that they approve it.
Critics say the policy effectively bars transgender students from playing sports.
The UIL’s “Non-Discrimination Policy” already bans member schools from denying students a chance to play on sports teams because of their disability, race, color, gender, religion or national origin.
The proposed addition to that policy says: “Gender shall be determined based on a student’s birth certificate. In cases where a student’s birth certificate is unavailable, other similar government documents used for the purpose of identification may be submitted.”
If approved by a majority of superintendents — and the state education commissioner — it would take effect Aug. 1, 2016.
If approved, the rule would go against a national trend of recent years. More than a dozen states have adopted policies that allow transgender student-athletes to participate in sports based on their gender identity.
The District of Columbia and 15 states, including Florida, have adopted such policies as a way to encourage participation in sports, said Asaf Orr, staff attorney for the Transgender Youth Project at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. He noted that the National Collegiate Athletic Association has adopted a similar policy.
The birth certificate rule Texas officials are considering “absolutely bars trans kids from playing sports,” Orr said.
Changing the gender on a birth certificate is not realistic for many kids because it requires having sex reassignment surgery, Orr said.
Orr said the concern that transgender girls will be far better players than those who were born female has not panned out in states that have adopted policies that allow transgender student-athletes to participate based on gender identity.
“We are not getting these hulking guys claiming to be girls dominating sports,” Orr said. “If we do, it’s because they’re superstar athletes; It’s not because they’re transgender.”
This feels to me like a policy born of ignorance and fear of backlash. I guess I can’t blame them for the fear, given the horror of the anti-HERO campaign in Houston and its shameful insistence of turning transgender folk into boogeymen, but it’s still wrong. What is the actual policy rationale for this? We have the example of the NCAA and 16 other high school sports authorities to follow. What problem does the UIL think Texas might face that these organizations and the athletes they represent have not faced or would not face? I don’t think the UIL can answer these questions, but it would be nice to at least hear them try. In the meantime, I hope they reconsider, and if they don’t, I hope HISD and other more enlightened districts opt out of that provision. If “non-discrimination” is to mean something, it has to have meaning for everyone.