Georgia High School Association endorses ban on transgender athletes

The Georgia High School Association has changed its rules for determining a student-athlete’s gender to prevent transgender students from playing on teams that match their gender identity.

The association, which oversees sports at 465 public and private schools across the state, approved the change by unanimous vote on Wednesday, according to meeting minutes.

Under the new rules, a student’s gender will be determined by what is written on their birth certificate. Previously, the association honored gender determinations made by schools.

The change comes less than a week after Governor Brian Kemp signed a series of education reform bills into law, including one targeting trans student athletes. This bill will create a committee whose responsibilities include determining whether students who are assigned a boy at birth should be able to compete on girls’ teams.

That committee process has yet to happen, and the vote was taken by the entire GHSA executive committee, much to the dismay of transgender advocates like Sen. Sally Harrell, an Atlanta Democrat.

“I’m disappointed that the Georgia High School Association came to this decision so quickly,” said Harrell, who spoke against a similar state Senate bill as the mother of a transgender child. “According to the legislation passed, Bill 1084, they were supposed to create a ten-member special committee to investigate and determine if this policy was necessary. They do not have. They didn’t create the committee and they didn’t do any investigation.

The supposed injustice of transgender athletes competing against women and girls has been a flashpoint among conservatives across the country. They cite examples like University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, a transgender woman who won a women’s national championship, but proponents of the ban gave no examples of transgender girls dominating women’s sports in Georgia. .

Even so, Republican lawmakers have made the measure a priority for this year’s legislative session, and Gov. Brian Kemp has placed it on his list of most wanted legislation.

A bill that would have banned transgender girls altogether from participating in school sports passed the Senate but failed to receive a vote in the House, leading advocates to hope it was dead. But in one of the most dramatic twists of the session, Republican lawmakers grafted language onto a bill tied to teaching divisive concepts in the classroom just as the final day of the session neared its end. end.

The association’s executive director, Robin Hines, said the committee would still be formed, but he said Wednesday’s vote had nothing to do with the law being passed.

He also said he does not consider it to discriminate against transgender students.

“In my mind, it wasn’t a transgender issue, it was a competitive balance issue,” he said. “Understanding that there are biological differences between men and women, athletically. The Georgia High School Association works on competitive balance in different ways. Smaller schools are in areas with smaller schools , not bigger schools, so it’s all about competition and fairness in sport.

Conservative leaders have adopted a similar tone.

“Sport teaches our children about teamwork and discipline, and we know that for girls there is a strong correlation between playing sports and getting good grades, having high self-esteem and staying out of trouble” said Pro Tem Sen. Butch Miller, who is running for lieutenant governor as a Republican. “That’s why we can’t and won’t let the madness of the woke mob destroy girls’ sport. It’s called girls’ sport for a reason – it’s for girls.

Chairman of the conservative lobby group Frontline Policy Action, Cole Muzio, hailed the vote as a victory against the ‘woke mob’ “who lie to children and seek to mold them in ways that are inconsistent with biology and the way which God created them”.

“This decision, however, is simply a matter of fairness – that everyone has the opportunity to participate on the grounds of fair play,” he said in a statement. “This is the right decision of the Georgia General Assembly and the GHSA, and we are so grateful!”

Parents of transgender children see it differently. They call it a cynical election year ploy at the expense of children who often face exclusion and bullying, at a time in their lives when it can seem extremely important to feel a sense of belonging.

According to the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis prevention organization for LGBTQ youth, 42% of LGBTQ youth have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender youth. and not binary.

“I think they’ll take it as a rejection of who they are,” Harrell said. “And that worries me because it seems that a number of these children have mental health problems. and I’m afraid it’s being pushed for no particular reason, since everyone seems to agree that it’s not a problem at this point.

Jen Slipakoff, a Georgia resident and mother of a transgender student, agreed.

“This decision is absolutely devastating for families like mine,” she said. “The cruelty that accompanies targeting the most vulnerable children is truly staggering. The painful consequences are going to be detrimental to the mental health of every trans child, and they will be negatively impacted for years to come, if not for the rest of their lives.

Harrell said she hopes more schools will institute inclusive intramural sports leagues so students can participate and learn about teamwork and fair play, regardless of skill level or school identity. gender.

“If we build more infrastructure for recreational sports, then all kinds of children can reap the benefits,” she said. “Short kids, tall kids, kids who didn’t train early enough or can’t afford to train to be more competitive. We need more opportunities for all children to participate in high school sports rather than banning, rather than targeting a certain group of children.

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