NC Republican lawmakers file bills to control transgender youth sports participation

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Thursday, April 6, 2023
Republican lawmakers file bills to control trans athletes in NC
Bills in the NC House and NC Senate would require all sports teams be designated as male, female or co-ed based on their biological sex at birth.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina Republican lawmakers filed several bills aimed at regulating transgender youth especially when it comes to participation in sports.

These bills are similar to ones GOP lawmakers pushed a couple years ago. While those bills failed, Republicans are hopeful their new supermajority -- achieved by getting Mecklenburg Democratic Rep. Tricia Cotham to switch parties -- will be able to force the bills through.

SEE ALSO: 'Still the same person': Tricia Cotham avoids policy specifics in announcing flip from Dems to GOP

There are two bills in the legislatures that would ban transgender athletes in some way. Legislation in the house and senate would require all sports teams be designated as male, female or co-ed based on their biological sex at birth.

"I support transgender athletes -- their right to gender identity as they see fit. However competitive sport is one of the few places in our society where sex differences matter," Former UNC Women's Basketball Coach Sylvia Hatchell said. Hatchell resigned amid controversy in 2019.

It would apply to public, private and charter schools that are part of the State High School Athletic Association as well as schools they play.


Republicans say this is needed legislation.

Trans high school athletes in our state currently have to submit a request form through their school. That form must then be referred to a committee for a thorough review before a decision is made on whether the student can participate.

A co-sponsor of one of the bills said there are about 15 transgender student-athletes participating in high school athletics in North Carolina. That represents less than 0.0075% of the more than 200,000 participants.

Kate Jenifer is the mother of one of those athletes. Jenifer and her daughter Madison, who is currently in high school, spoke out against the legislation when it was proposed in 2021, and plans to address lawmakers again should the bill move forward.

"When you come after my kid, I'm going to do anything I can to protect my child as any parent would," Jenifer said. "The unfortunate thing, the tragic thing is it's children. It's children that are going to be impacted and their mental health,"

Opponents of the proposal expressed concerns about how the bills will effect trans students mental health.

"It would be devastating if that were to be stripped away from Maddie for no other reason than who she is as a person," Jenifer said.

"A lot of trans students, especially athletes, feel excluded enough by their peers, by the people around them not accepting them for who they are. So just the fact that the government is trying to exclude them even more than they already are, it feels like overreach," explained Katherine Goforth-Harbin, a volunteer with Time Out Youth.

Equality NC Executive Director Kendra Johnson said the push to add more regulations on trans athletes is unnecessary.

"We've been seeing these attacks all over the nation. Really when there are so many things that need to be addressed inside of school systems, we don't need to be bullying kids that are already facing a lot of harassment and discrimination," she said. "When the bills are filed it causes outsized harm to trans students who (are already) struggling to belong inside a school system."

Republicans disagree.

"Why are we putting women's sports under attack? This bill is not against anybody. But it is for all women," NC Sen. Vickie Sawyer (R-District 37) said.

"This is common sense legislation," NC Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-District 31) said.

In response to the bills Equality NC released a statement saying in part, "This legislation is a direct attack on the rights of LGBTQ+ youth and will prevent many trans and intersex kids from participating in athletics at the middle school and high school level."

GOP lawmakers have filed multiple bills this week that would ban transgender students from either participating spots or receiving healthcare.

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Additionally GOP lawmakers have filed the Youth Health Protection act.

That would prevent transgender youth from receiving puberty blockers or certain surgeries.