(The Center Square) – LGBTQ rights activists are mobilizing ahead of planned committee meetings this week on legislation designed to restore integrity to girls’ school sports programs.
Equality North Carolina, a statewide LGBTQ nonprofit, is “looking for trans youth, parents and medical experts” to speak out against the “negative impacts” of House Bill 574 and Senate Bill 631, known as the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.
Equality NC contends the legislation constitutes an “attack on trans youth” and is working to derail the bills through committee testimony, pressure on lawmakers, and other events organized through social media.
“Despite the absence of any evidence for competitive advantage for trans athletes, lawmakers are attempting to bully trans kids – even though fewer than 20 trans students have even applied to participate in sports congruent with their identities in NC,” according to the Equality NC website. “We need to raise our voices in defense of these kids.”
Bill sponsors have pointed to safety concerns and a desire to maintain the integrity of women’s sports, following incidents in North Carolina and beyond involving transgender students playing in girls’ sports competitions.
Last fall, a transgender student playing on a girls’ volleyball team spiked the ball into a female player’s face, causing neck and head injuries, vision problems, and other issues.
There’s also numerous examples of female athletes who were dethroned from winning podiums by biologically male athletes who identify as female, an issue that’s played a role in 18 other states adopting legislation similar to the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.
“An expert report on male athletics advantages authored by Dr. Gregory A. Brown, an exercise science professor at the University of Nebraska, shows some of the many reasons why male athletes shouldn’t compete against females,” Christina Kiefer, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, wrote in a recent blog on the alliance website.
“Brown found that male athletes have many inherent advantages over females including greater height and weight, larger and stronger bones, larger muscles, and higher rates of metabolizing and releasing energy. And the report also shows that these advantages exist before puberty and even after testosterone suppression,” she wrote. “Male athletic advantages result in large discrepancies between the performance of men and women. In 2017, for example, more than 5,000 males ran 400-meter times that were faster than the personal bests of female Olympic gold medalists Sanya Richards-Ross and Allyson Felix.”
The North Carolina High School Athletics Association’s default policy requires students to participate in school sports based on the gender listed on their birth certificate, but transgender students can apply for an exemption with attestations from medical providers and a recommendation from school officials.
The association’s executive director, former girls basketball coach Que Tucker, told The Center Square 18 requests have been received since the policy went into effect in 2019; only one has been denied.
The association, with more than 400 member public schools, does not track whether the students actually participated, but Tucker contends “by and large, this has been a nonissue in North Carolina.”
A National Public Radio poll conducted last summer showed 63% of Americans oppose allowing transgender girls to compete on teams that align with their gender identity.
“A recent statewide poll shows 70% of North Carolinians agree, biological males should not be allowed on female teams – this is a unifying issue,” said HB574 sponsor Rep. Erin Pare, R-Wake, one of 42 House members supporting the bill.
Pare said the legislation “will hold up Title IX rights afforded to girls, to protect their rights to compete on a level playing field. Allowing boys to play on girls’ teams reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women.”