Education

South Dakota Lawmaker Proposes Genital Inspections For Trans High School Athletes

CREDIT: Doug Dreyer, AP

South Dakota Rep. Roger Hunt (R)

South Dakota legislator Roger Hunt (R) offered legislation that could require examination of a transgender athlete’s genitals before competing in high school sports. Hunt has stated that he believes gender begins at conception and that only birth certificates and visual inspections should be used to determine a student’s gender identity.

When speaking about trans students being allowed to compete in high school sports, Hunt said, according to the Rapid City Journal, “This is South Dakota. We haven’t adopted the East Coast culture. We haven’t adopted the West Coast culture. We maintain our own culture.”

The legislation is yet another response to the South Dakota High School Activities Association’s decision to make its policies inclusive to trans athletes last year.

The current policy requires that parents notify the school of their child’s gender identity and the school collects information from the family, such as parents, friends and teachers, that the student’s gender identity is different than what is listed on their birth certificate or school registration records and receives written verification from a health care professional who can attest to the child’s consistent gender identification and expression.

Once a decision is made based on the available records and statements, trans students can participate in sports according to their gender identity for the rest of their high school career. The policy also provides guidance for correct pronoun use and access to locker rooms and bathrooms.

This isn’t the first time state lawmakers took objection to the new policies. In February, South Dakota State Rep. Jim Bolin (R) said the association “decided to essentially question the validity of birth documents in the state of South Dakota,” and introduced a bill that would make the policy void. It also required that sexual identity would only be determined by birth certificates.

Legislators tried to overturn the policy twice. It passed the House of Representatives but failed in the Senate. The association’s board will take another look at the policy in its meeting next week, which is why some Republican lawmakers say advocates against the policy should wait until after the meeting to push Hunt’s legislation, the Rapid City Journal reports.

This legislation may go against federal law, however. Transgender students are also protected by Title IX in single-sex extracurricular activities, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance, released in December of last year.

At least 13 states and the District of Columbia protect trans students from discrimination, including discrimination in athletics.

Still, many trans athletes aren’t allowed to compete in the sports team that better fits their gender identity. Fears about trans students sharing bathrooms have been amplified by conservative groups and Republican political figures. The Minnesota Child Protection League ran a television ad against an inclusive policy for trans athletes asking parents whether they would want their daughter to shower with “a male” and former Arkansas Mike Huckabee (R) suggested cisgender boys would pretend to be transgender in order to share showers with girls.

This year, a 17-year-old trans teenager in New Mexico, wasn’t allowed to join the girls’ volleyball team. The New Mexico Activities Association said the gender on a student’s birth certificate is the only say on which team a student can play on, and birth certificates can only be amended after reassignment surgery.

At the Indiana School for the Deaf, a middle school coach told a trans student’s parents that she could not compete on the girls’ basketball or volleyball teams. According to NUVO, an Indiana-based news site, the mother said he was concerned about bathrooms:

He said he is concerned about what other parents would say. “What locker room would she use? Where would she use the bathroom?” … “She is a girl! She sleeps in the girls” dorm when she is at school. She uses the girls’ bathroom at school. Why would playing a sport be any different?

Trans students aren’t allowed to play on the team of their gender identity unless they complete gender reassignment surgery, and then the student would have to have an amended birth certificate, a court order or another state document to assert their gender identity. Indiana High School Athletic Association’s policy reads:

The IHSAA rules do not permit transgender or transsexual, cross-dressing or similar types of student-athletes to participate on a member school’s team which is other than the team of the gender which matches the student’s birth gender.