GHSA to vote Wednesday on transgender athletes’ ability to play high school sports

The Georgia High School Association will vote Wednesday on a proposal to define an athlete’s gender based on birth certificate and ban transgender athletes from choosing sports consistent with their gender identity.

If passed by the GHSA’s 75-member executive committee, the proposal would replace bylaw 1.47 (b), which allows each GHSA member school to make its own rule determining gender for sports.

“We’re approaching this as a competitive-balance issue,” said GHSA executive director Robin Hines, who submitted the proposal. “We don’t want to discriminate against anybody, but that includes biological girls. There are competitive imbalances generally between biological females and biological males.”

The Georgia Legislature last month passed a Republican-sponsored education bill that established a 10-member oversight committee to study transgender high school sports participation.

The bill, which passed on a party-line vote, did not settle the transgender participation issue but effectively pressured the GHSA to take a stronger stand. At least a dozen state legislatures, including Tennessee’s last week, have passed measures to limit transgender participation in school sports in the past two years.

Critics say the laws are discriminatory and address competitive-imbalance issues that rarely exist. “This is a solution in search of a problem,” Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, the state’s largest advocacy group on LGBTQ issues, said after the Georgia bill passed.

The GHSA does not track participation among transgender students. Hines said he was aware only anecdotally of a couple of transgender athletes participating in boys cross-country.

The GHSA’s policy until 2016 had been to use birth-certificate assignment to determine sports gender, but the association changed course to allow individual schools and school boards to make those decisions. That change came months after North Carolina’s controversial bathroom bill that prevented transgender people from using public bathrooms that aligned with their gender identity.

The GHSA’s executive committee is meeting at the Thomaston-Upson County Civic Center beginning at 10 a.m.