A state judge in Utah will allow transgender kids to participate in girls’ sports if they appear before a commission of coaches and doctors and can prove that they will not be at a significant competitive advantage.
The commission was created as a backup plan in the instance of a court challenge to the state’s total ban on transgender athletes competing as anything other than their biological sex. A group of three parents is suing the state over their children’s non-participation, and the judge ruled that the athletes could compete as girls with the commission’s blessing.
Under the law, the panel will be allowed to ask for and assess the child’s height and weight in making decisions about whether a transgender girl would have an unfair advantage.
The commission, which is set to be convened in the coming weeks, will include politically appointed experts from athletics and medicine.
When proposed, the commission was criticized by advocates for transgender student-athletes — who worried they would feel targeted having their bodies measured — and proponents of an outright ban, who argued it didn’t go far enough.
The commission is set to go into effect while the court weighs the legal challenge to the outright ban. Members have not yet been appointed but will be in the coming weeks, legislative leaders said.
Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed the ban on transgenders competing as a sex other than what they were assigned at birth saying he was worried that the law would target vulnerable transgender kids already at high suicide risk.
And what of young girls whose gender is called into question because they’re good athletes?
The ruling follows a revelation this week by the Utah High School Activities Association that it secretly investigated a female athlete — without telling her or her parents — after receiving complaints from the parents of two girls she had defeated in competition questioning whether the girl was transgender.
The investigation — which was roundly criticized by Cox — determined she indeed was female after poring through her school records dating back to kindergarten, association spokesman David Spatafore told lawmakers this week.
Critics of the ban were upset but said they were not surprised by the investigation. They said it highlighted how the impact of politicizing girls’ sports affected more than transgender student-athletes and subjected all girls to scrutiny in ways they anticipated.
“It creates such a negative atmosphere based on stereotypes about girls and how they should look,” Minter said. “It is really is harmful to all the kids in the state.”
The commission will “include a medical data statistician, a physician with experience about ‘gender identity healthcare’, a sports physiologist, mental health professional, collegiate athletic trainer, representative of an athletic association and a rotating member who is a coach or official in the sport relevant to each case,” according to the AP.
Advocates for the transgender athletes claim that the commission will “target” transgendered kids unfairly. That may be true. But it’s also unfair for someone whose advantages make a joke of competitive female sports to compete as a girl.