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NCGA passes legislation to restrict transgender youth participation in school sports


The North Carolina Legislative Building sits in Raleigh on Monday, April 24, 2023.

The N.C. General Assembly passed House Bill 574 — called the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act — on June 22. The bill would ban transgender women from participating in school athletics at middle school, high school and collegiate levels.

H.B. 574 is one of many pieces of legislation in the South targeting transgender young people, Adam Polaski, the communications director for Campaign for Southern Equality, said. 

“The bill is an attempt to exclude transgender students and basically target them for discrimination and exclusion and further marginalization,” he said.

N.C. Rep. Allen Buansi (D-Orange) said the bill would have a disastrous impact and sends the message that transgender youth are not welcome.

He also said that if athletic participation is taken away from transgender students, they will have one fewer way to de-stress and connect with other people.

“I believe in a North Carolina that’s inclusive, and this bill does the opposite of that,” he said. 

Polaski said the bill ensures that transgender people won't have access to the positive impacts of student athletics, such as health and companionship.

“I think it’s easy to get wrapped up when you’re talking about the specific details of one particular bill,” he said. “But when you zoom out, I think we’re really seeing an all-out assault on the transgender community in an attempt to make it challenging to live as a transgender person.”

He said transgender youth will see the bill as an attempt at exclusion, even if they are not interested in playing sports. 

Liz Barber, the policy director for the ACLU of North Carolina, said the bill would be devastating for a “handful” of transgender athletes who will no longer be able to participate in athletics, and will be devastating to all transgender youth.

Que Tucker, a commissioner for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, said in an email statement that since the gender waiver request policy was instituted in the 2019-2020 school year, NCHSAA has received 18 requests, 14 of which were biological females requesting to participate in male sports.

“You really have to look at all of these bills together to see the scope of the attack on the trans community in North Carolina,” Barber said.

The ACLU is currently tracking 491 pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the U.S., which is a record number of bills that target the rights of the community, according to the organization. This legislation concerns issues like transgender athlete bans, gender-affirming care bans and anti-drag bills — which are happening in North Carolina — she said.

“It affects every kid who is trans or is gender non-conforming or a member of the LGBTQ community in really any way because it sends a message to those kids that they don’t belong,” Barber said.

Polaski said he does not think the core of the bill is about protecting sports, but rather targeting a marginalized group of people and trying to “score political points” off of them.

“There are very very few transgender students, and there are even fewer who would like to participate in sports,” he said. “So we’re really talking about a small number of students who are seeing the full weight of the state against them.”

“A few trans students are not hurting the sporting establishment,” he said.  

The bill now heads to Gov. Roy Cooper's desk, where he could veto, sign or let the bill become law.


@DTHCityState | 

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Lucy Marques

Lucy Marques is a 2023-24 assistant city & state editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She was previously a city & state senior writer. Lucy is a junior pursuing a double major in political science and Hispanic literatures and cultures.

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