The N.C. High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) announced last month a new policy that will allow transgender student-athletes to participate in a sport as a gender that doesn’t match their birth certificates.
For most in this county, this decision had to come as a shock. Transgender topics are rarely discussed publicly here in terms of official policy. It’s just not something of which we have had to consider often on the Crystal Coast. For some, I imagine it would have been a preference to stay that way.
But Bob Dylan said it in 1964, “The Times They Are a-Changin’.” Believe it or not, understand it or not, this is what is happening in today’s American culture. This train has been steaming along the tracks for several years, its stop here one of the last in this state. There have been loose policies in place at urban schools for up to a decade, but now the NCHSAA policy means every corner of the state is affected.
I understand the reticence. I published an official story on the matter in Sunday’s edition, for which I fished the opinions or statements of at least 18 coaches and athletic directors from the three county high schools. I got responses from six of them. Only three provided on-the-record comments. I’d like to personally thank those three individuals, plus past NCHSAA President Joe Poletti, for putting themselves out there for this topic.
I don’t blame the quiet ones one iota. It’s a touchy subject with few ways to express an honest onion without expecting vitriol from one side or the other.
Plus, the NCHSAA policy has been made. No arguments from a coach in an interview are going to change that policy. Our coaches and teachers understand that fact, and most aren’t trying to go out of their way to alienate students anyway. Make no mistake, expressing an opinion one way or another on this topic risks alienating someone. While most of us are fine with that fact, teachers don’t always have that luxury.
So, the policy is in place. A pathway has been cleared for transgender students to pursue their passions even if the gender on their birth certificate doesn’t match the sport of their choice. What can be expected? Will teenage boys be roaming freely in the girls locker room so long as they’re “tucked?” Will female student-athletes start losing playing time because second-string male players are taking up all of their starting spots?
Of course not. There are far too many roadblocks in the way of those shenanigans. Firstly, according to the rules set in place by the NCHSAA, the pathway by which a transgender student-athlete can appeal to play as another gender is not a simple one. There will be no 17-year-old hooligans strolling into the counselor’s office proclaiming, “I’m a boy, sign me up for softball!”
There will be documentation, medical visits, personal corroborations and more needed for transitioning students to make their appeal. The instances will likely be far and few between for a while. It’s possible our high schools may not see the policy put in use for quite some time.
It should be noted, however, there are schools in the state’s metropolises that already have a transgender student-athlete population in the double digits. In those cases, transgender students obtain an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that helps facilitate the athlete’s needs.
The other big outcry from the NCHSAA’s new policy is the threat on girls sports. The idea is that middling male athletes will transition to females to get a leg up in athletics. After all, boys sports are often played at a faster pace than girls sports. Often times, boys can jump higher, run faster, hit harder, etc.
The thing about hypotheticals are, they often look better on paper than in practice. Transitioning is a deeply involved process, one that literally changes a person’s biology and look, inside and out. It’s a process that can take years, preceded by a deep personal commitment and consultations with medical practitioners.
That is a lot to go through to get an advantage on in a high school sport. It seems unlikely a teenager will be willing to subject his or her body to huge swings in hormones, a complete change in biology and a totally new gender, not to mention the social reaction from their peers, simply to dupe the NCHSAA.
Transitioning is not a fad. It’s not a hot new craze that the kids are using to defy their parents. As a 30-year-old Millennial with a 21-year-old Generation Z sister and a 5-year-old little one (Generation Alpha), I can tell you the transgender topic is not going away. It’s also just a sign of what more is to come. In my opinion, the non-binary gender will end up being far more favored in the next few decades. But that’s a topic for another time.
For now, this is a single piece of policy. It’s not the opening of a floodgate that will allow chicanery in prep sports. It’s simply a way to allow student-athletes to express themselves in the way they see fit.
Do yourself a favor. Get educated on the topic. Read articles, testimonials and experiences by people on both sides of the issue. The biggest thing I learned in researching this story is the unwillingness to dig too deep into this topic. That is no longer an option. It’s here, and the only way this conversation goes forward is if both sides are educated.
(Send comments or questions to email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @zacknally)