A new bill in the state legislature could require middle, high school and collegiate athletes to compete on the team correlating with their sex assigned at birth.
House Bill 358, introduced on March 22 in the N.C. House of Representatives as the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” is part of a wave of bills introduced across the country to segregate teams in this way. North Carolina's bill cites "inherent differences" between males and females as the main justification for segregating the sexes, rather than allowing individuals to compete on the team correlating to their gender identity.
Read the full bill.
Four Republican N.C. House representatives drafted and sponsored this bill: Rep. Mark Brody (R–Anson, Union), Rep. Pat McElraft (R–Carteret, Jones), Rep. Diane Wheatley (R–Cumberland) and Rep. Jimmy Dixon (R–Duplin, Onslow).
In addition to North Carolina, over 30 other states are in the process of or have already passed laws segregating middle, high school and collegiate athletes onto teams by their sex assigned at birth. Most of the bills focus on women's athletics.
North Carolina's bill attempts to address an "issue that's coming our way," Brody said.
“It makes a policy statement that men are not allowed to participate in women's sports, that is the sex-segregated sports,” Brody said.
Local and regional groups have already begun fighting the bill. Allison Scott, a transgender woman and the director of impact and innovation at the Campaign for Southern Equality, said HB 358 is a reflection of multiple bills from a number of states.
“It is seemingly a coordinated attack on trans and non-binary people – name it for what it is – specifically attacks on trans-feminine, trans girls in high school,” Scott said.
Approximately 11,000 individuals, ages 13 to 24, identify as transgender in the state of North Carolina, according to a January 2017 study at the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. North Carolina has a population of about 10.5 million.
“I think most of these bills are trying to fix a problem that frankly doesn’t exist,” Scott said.
Rebby Kern, the director of education policy at Equality NC, said they don't think this bill belongs in the state legislature, partially because North Carolina High School Athletic Association already has a policy on gender identity.
The Gender Policy of the NCHSAA authorizes athletes to participate on the athletic team of their aligned gender identity. The NCHSAA passed the policy in 2019, in which they outline a step-by-step process to provide all students with an equal opportunity to play high school sports.
“We’ve already had students that have been participating, without any issue, on teams aligned with their gender identity,” Kern said.
But HB 358 states that athletic associations or organizations would not be allowed to investigate claims of discrimination based on gender identity should a school choose to maintain athletic teams segregated by sex.
“If someone were to ask us, ‘do you believe that your policy when you all passed it back in 2019 – was it the right thing to do for people?’” NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker said. “The answer to that is yes, and we could give all the reasons why we believe it was the right thing to do then and why it still is the right thing to do now.”
On Jan. 20, President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation based on Title VII from the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Brody said HB 358, along with similar bills across the country, is in response to this order.
Seventy-five percent of trans-identifying individuals in North Carolina faced a form of mistreatment, like verbal harassment or prohibition from wearing clothes aligned with their gender identity, between kindergarten and the 12th grade, according to the North Carolina State Report from the U.S. Transgender Survey in 2015.
The same report cited that 21 percent of trans-identifying persons in North Carolina faced such severe mistreatment that they stopped attending their K-12 school.
Carrboro resident Tiz Giordano said they categorize HB358 as policy violence that will only legitimize harassment at school and at home, thus increasing a trans youth's chances of leaving school.
“It’s hard to be a teenager, no matter who you are – and it’s measurably harder to have your institutions discriminating against you,” they said. “(This legislation) can keep trans-youth from being able to attain higher education and scholarships that would make higher education possible, which then impacts their entire lives.”
“If this bill is signed, it could continue some really harmful outcomes that we’ve already been seeing not only in our state, but as a nation,” Kern said.
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