Despite never being previously faced with a decision on a transgender athlete's eligibility, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association adopted a policy requiring student athletes to compete with teammates of the same gender listed on their birth certificate, according to The News & Observer.
"We want to give all of our students the opportunity to be involved in our programs," NCHSAA commissioner Davis Whitfield told the paper. "We've never had a case come to us, but transgender is a national topic and at national meetings we have been advised to establish a policy."
Roughly a dozen states have adopted policies regarding transgender student athletes, mostly allowing them to compete for teams matching their gender identities, according to The New York Times. California and Massachusetts are among states allowing transgenders to use the same locker room as their teammates.
The NCHSAA does not entirely preclude transgenders from competing for a team matching his or her gender identity. According to The News & Observer, birth certificates can be changed pending a notarized confirmation of sex reassignment surgery. The Virginia High School League has adopted a similar policy.
However, "that is unlikely for a high school student to have had that surgery because of a matter of life course and as a matter of cost," Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network executive director Eliza Byard told The News & Observer. Therefore, Byard believes the NCHSAA's policy falls short.
The issue of transgenders in sports first came to light in 1977, when Renée Richards sued the United States Tennis Association in order to compete in the 1977 U.S. Women's Open after sex-change surgery. More recently, Fallon Fox, who was born male, made headlines as the first transgender MMA athlete.
Additionally, the IOC requires gender reassignment surgery, legal recognition of the sex change and two years of hormone therapy before allowing transgender athletes to compete. The NCAA has a more inclusive policy. Pending medical records, college athletes are permitted to compete while transitioning.
Meanwhile, opponents of fully inclusive policies like those adopted by California and Massachusetts suggest male students could simply claim they identified as female in order to gain an athletic advantage.
"That student would have a dramatically unfair advantage because of his anatomical sex," Massachusetts Family Institute executive vice president Andrew Beckwith told The New York Times last year. "And then after the game, he can go to the girls' locker room and shower alongside all the girls."
However, more progressive leaders in student athletics dismiss that suggestion entirely. “You can hypothetical anything, but I cannot imagine a male student going through the stigma and psychological trauma to change his name and his sexual identity to play on a girls team,” Nebraska School Activities Association executive director Rhonda Blanford-Green told The News-Observer. “I won’t say it would never happen, but I can’t imagine this would be a problem. Why would he do that? What would be the benefit?”