• Wed. Jun 7th, 2023

Trans athletes can play sports in Michigan, just not win, under GOP-backed bill


May 25, 2023

More than half of all Republicans in the Michigan House are backing an effort to require student athlete scores are recorded based on biological sex, rather than the gender they present as.

It’s a way bill sponsor Rep. Jamie Greene, R-Richmond, said would allow for trans children to still participate in sports just not win the awards associated with the class they were participating in.

That would mean, under House Bill 4546, a transgender girl would be allowed to swim alongside cisgender girls on a high school swim team, but – should she win at a meet – her times would not be recorded alongside that of her teammates. Instead, they’d fall under swim times recorded by high school boys.

This would only apply to sports where athletes compete individually, with separate categories for male and female athletes, with the event either being entirely or partly publicly funded.

Greene said she crafted the bill out of wanting to protect her 14-year-old daughter from having to compete against a trans athlete, though noted that scenario has not occurred.

“I see this next crop of young girls coming up, and it’s going to be unfair to them,” Greene said. “That’s why it’s called the FAIR Act – because I just want it to be fair. … We were very careful in crafting this piece of legislation so that we weren’t excluding anybody from participating.”

The bill has little chance of passing given Democrats control both the House and Senate in Lansing and have shown no interest in the topic. But the subject has made waves across the country in recent years, with Michigan having tried to bar trans children from participating in sports altogether as recently as 2021.

Erin Knott, executive director with the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Michigan, called the bill “an insult to Michiganders who have more pressing issues than who participates in a game of volleyball at your local high school.”

“If we really want to discuss crises in schools? Let’s talk about the … mass shootings that have occurred so far this year,” Knott said. “Let’s talk about the thousands of kids who have debt because they can’t afford school lunches. … But instead of addressing these problems, our elected officials are fixated on kids sports.”

Reporting from Inside Higher Ed indicates that, as of July 2022, there has reportedly been just 32 trans athletes who have competed openly in college sports. Further, data provided by the Michigan High School Athletic Association notes that, as of the end of September 2022, the organization had received 11 requests for eligibility over the last five year.

MHSAA Communications Director Geoff Kimmerly said the number was actually even smaller, at just seven students, as some of those requests were from the same athlete requesting for multiple school years.

Per MHSAA guidance, female athletes “can always play on male sports teams,” said Kimmerly, meaning this data only applies to transgender female athletes (or, those born male and transitioning to female) and not transgender male athletes (those born female, who are transitioning to male).

The association determines the participation of trans female athletes on a case-by-case basis for MHSAA tournaments, according to 2023 guidance provided by Kimmerly. The two page document notes it is the MHSAA executive director who makes this determination, but only if they receive documentation from school administration answering three questions about the student:

  • What their gender is as recorded on their high school registration, transcripts, health/immunization records or preparticipation physical examination forms?
  • What do other records indicate, including a student’s medical or psychological records?
  • Has the student commenced either testosterone suppression therapy or undergone gender-affirming surgery? If yes to either of these questions, the forms must also note when this occurred.

This must be provided to the MHSAA executive director at least 30-days before the opt-out due date for that tournament. Parents/guardians, or the student themselves, if they are 18, would be required to sign a waiver giving their consent for the student to “engage in interscholastic athletics and for the disclosure to the MHSAA of information otherwise protected by (federal laws ensuring privacy of student education and medical records) or Michigan law, including but not limited to medical and mental health records, for the purpose of determining eligibility for interscholastic athletics under any one or more of MHSAA’s regulations.”

“A student whose written records … all indicate girl will be assessed as a girl (12% minimum body fat),” the guidance reads. “If the written documents are not consistent, then the question is referred to the MHSAA executive director to determine on a case-by-case basis, following the same procedures as when making the decision for MHSAA tournament eligibility as outlined above.”

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