- Associated Press - Friday, February 21, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A new Virginia policy covering transgender high school athletes is too restrictive because it applies only to students who have undergone formal sex-reassignment surgery, advocates complain.

The Virginia High School League announced Wednesday that it would allow transgender student-athletes to compete on teams opposite of their birth gender, provided their sex-reassignment surgery has minimized “gender-related advantages in sports competition.”

The Richmond Times-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/OjaqcO ) reports that the policy would have minimal impact because the surgery is typically performed on adults. Minors need parental consent, and it’s a medical expense usually not covered by insurance.

The surgery involves the removal of external sex organs and ovaries or testes and hormonal therapy.

“This is overly restrictive,” said Eliza Byard, the executive director of the national Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. “It’s very important that transgender students have access to school activities. But if the idea was to increase participation, this won’t do it.”

Leaders of local, statewide and national gender equality organizations said they thought the pool of potential athletes who would fall under Virginia’s new policy was nearly nonexistent, making the new policy little more than symbolic.

The Virginia Department of Health does not track gender-change operations or other nonsurgical gender-altering procedures, a spokeswoman said. It also doesn’t track requests for amendments to birth certificates, but those requests are so broad in nature, no reliable information on teen transgender issues is discernible.

The Virginia High School League reviewed policies from the 18 states that have guidelines involving transgender athletes and settled on the physiological standards, said Ken Tilley, the executive director.

“We felt that would fit best with us, and we were most comfortable with that position,” he said.

The motion passed on a 27-0 vote of the VHSL executive committee. It will govern participation at the state’s 313 public high schools starting next school year.

The NCAA policy does not include a requirement for formal sex reassignment. It does include language about proving the medical use of testosterone, which is a banned substance.


Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.timesdispatch.com