New Policy For VA’s Trans Student Athletes Called “Most Restrictive In The Country”
In a 27-0 vote yesterday, the Virginia High School League approved a new policy to allow transgender students to participate in sports programs aligning with the gender they identify with.
But the language of the policy has been called some of the most restrictive in the country, requiring the student to have undergone gender reassignment surgery. Additionally, a student must remain on hormone treatment and would be removed from the team if the treatments were stopped.
Below is the text from the VHSL policy which details the requirements:
VHSL rules and regulations allow transgender student‐athlete participation under the following
A. A student‐athlete will compete in the gender of their birth certificate unless they have undergone
B. A student‐athlete who has undergone sex reassignment is eligible to compete in the reassigned
1. The student‐athlete has undergone sex reassignment before puberty, OR
2. The student‐athlete has undergone sex reassignment after puberty under all of the following
a. Surgical anatomical changes have been completed, including external genitalia changes
b. Hormonal therapy appropriate for the assigned sex has been administered in a verifiable
manner and for a sufficient length of time to minimize gender‐related advantages in
c. If a student‐athlete stops taking hormonal treatment, they will be required to participate
in the sport consistent with their birth gender.
C. A student‐athlete seeking to participate as a result of sex reassignment must access the VHSL
eligibility appeals process.
The VHSL monitors the athletic activities for the state association that handles the handbook, eligibility, and scholarships, for 313 of Virginia’s public high schools. The topic of how to handle transgender students in athletics had been discussed at the national level for several yearl, according to Mike McCall, Information and Communications Specialist for the VHSL. ”It’s at the front door of schools across the country… At some point, someone’s going to walk through a high school principals door and say “I’m a transgender student and I want to compete”"
The new policy was drafted over the last several months, and McCall said the language of the policy had been pulled from other state’s policies, as well as advice from medical health professionals. ”The future is here… it could happen at any time now, and you want a safe and equitable experience for all public school students, and leaving out a section of students isn’t fair.”
But looking at other state’s policies shows a varying difference in what is asked of a trans student in order for them to take part in a sports program matching the gender they identify with.
Nevada’s policy requires documentation from “the student and/or parent/guardian and/or health care provider” and allows students to participate “irrespective of the gender listed on the student’s birth certificate or other student records, and regardless of whether the student has undergone any medical treatment.”
California’s policy only requires documentation of student’s consistent gender identification in the form of an affirmed written statement from the “student and/or parent/guardian and /or health care provider.”
But McCall said the new policy is amendable and the organization would be open to changes in the future. “It’s a policy put in place as a guideline,” said McCall. “Nothing is going to be %100 perfect from everybody’s perspective, but you put the policy in place and then at least you have a policy you could work from.”
With the policy in place for less than 24 hours, McCall said feedback so far had been positive, and the groups Executive Committee was eager to put the policy in place. “It was a real easy discussion, it was never a discussion of why, it was ‘are we there yet? Can we make this effective immediately?”
But at least one national group has spoken out against it’s strict nature.”We’re disappointed that [The VHSL] has adopted a policy more restrictive than any other state or even the NCAA, which would make it impossible for the large majority of transgender students to compete.” said Harper Jean Tobin, Esq. Director of Policy National Center for Transgender Equality. “No other state requires teenagers to undergo major surgery in order to compete.”
Additionally, many medical professionals who deal with gender identity in children do not recommended genital related surgeries before the age of 18.
“Anything to do with fertility is not recommended at this time until [the youth] turns 18 and can make that decision for themselves,” said Dr. Marvin Belzer, a Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at the University of Southern California. “Having a policy that required hormonal treatment might be reasonable, or documented transition might be reasonable, but yea, the surgery requirement is kind of a catch 22 since no one will have had the surgery.”
McCall acknowledged the concerns and stressed nothing was set in stone. “If we’re getting criticized it means we’re in the right arena, we’re trying to make a change, we’re trying to make a difference in these transgender students lives… we might not have gone far enough, but we’ll get there.”
“we’re trying to make a difference in these transgender students lives”December 5, 2014
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