“This bill is not about being anti-trans, this bill is about being pro-woman,” Sen. Vickie Sawyer, R-Iredell, said Tuesday about a North Carolina Senate bill that would prevent biologically female high school athletes from being forced to compete against biological males in sports designated for females.
Under S.B. 631, Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, high school transgender athletes would be required to compete on either co-ed teams or on teams designated for their biological sex.
The Senate Education Committee hearing on the bill got heated at times by legislators and others commenting on the bill.
Sawyer, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, played sports in high school. She said a female fully understands when she walks on the field playing against other men and takes those risks into her hands. But, when a woman walks onto the field and plays against other women, “she doesn’t expect to be outnumbered or outgunned by someone who’s a biological man.”
“Let me just point out the title of this bill again,” said Sen. Kevin Corbin, R-Macon, another co-sponsor. “It’s fairness in women’s sports. That’s what this bill is about. It’s common-sense legislation.”
Sawyer said women in middle and high school have enough to deal with growing pains and learning how to play a sport without having to work out twice as hard and run twice as long and be twice as strong as someone who is a biological male playing alongside them.
“If you are a woman, I ask you to stand with me and protect our sports that we have fought so hard for the past two decades to make sure that we can be recognized and play in a fair atmosphere,” she said.
Natasha Marcus, D-Mecklenburg, said male athletes don’t “fake” being transgender to play on a female team. She also said that those who identify as trans are struggling with their identity and trying to find their path in life and just want to join a team since they “don’t fit the mold.” She continued saying that there are 15 known transgender athletes on high school sports teams in North Carolina or may have been at one time and that it is such a small number and a blanket bill such as this isn’t necessary as each incident is handled on a case-by-case basis.
“Little uncomfortable in some cases but it’s worth it,” Marcus said. “I understand there was one report at a volleyball game where it’s unclear if the athlete was a trans athlete and if that was the reason, injuries happen. I will point out injuries happen in sports all the time we don’t need legislation to try to protect everyone and in every case.”
Marcus went on to say that the bill violates Title IX protections under federal law and doesn’t understand why things like gun violence in schools and teacher shortages aren’t being discussed instead.
“I guess the young woman in Cherokee County who’s still uncomfortable today from her neck injuries after a transgender male slammed her to the ground with a volleyball?” said Sawyer. “Yeah, I would call that uncomfortable. We’ve had one injury. Those odds are pretty high.”
A Hiwassee Dam girls’ volleyball player reportedly suffered head and neck injuries from a spike from a 6-foot Highlands transgender athlete.
Sawyer said 15 is still too high of a number, and other issues exist, like if a biological male can take away a championship or scholarship from a biological woman.
“If we are truly to maintain a level playing field in women’s sports, biological sex must supersede gender preference,” said N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt, the mother of two daughters. “There are inherent and intrinsic biological differences between men and women that impact and boys and girls that impact athletic performance.”
She said that sports studies show that there is an average of 10 to 12% performance gap between elite males and elite females, which is almost entirely attributable to the presence of testosterone, along with other factors like muscle and heart size, the amount of fat and higher red blood count that a biological male has.
“This is why we needed Title IX protections in the first place, and this is why Title IX is so important,” she said.
Sen. Jay Chadhuri, D-Wake, said he didn’t understand why the need to pass such legislation when the North Carolina high school Athletic Association already has a set of rules and processes in place to address this issue.
“The number is 15,” Sawyer replied. “They made 15 wrong decisions.”
The conversation got a little heated when Chadhuri asked his next question.
“Senator Sawyer, are you aware or any of the other co-sponsors of the bill have heard from the business community about whether this bill would harm our state’s efforts to recruit and retain companies here?”
Sawyer hit back. “I appreciate the political play you’re having here,” to which Chadhuri replied, “It’s not political.”
Sen. Amy Galey, R- Alamance, chair of the Senate Education Committee, had to interrupt Chadhuri as it was Sawyer’s turn to speak.
“I’m here to protect young women, and that’s what I’m here for,” Sawyer said.
“I find it really troublesome that we’re having a difficult time in a discussion understanding biological differences between males and females as it relates to sports,” said Sen. Michael Lazzara, R-Onslow, who said no one is prohibiting anyone from playing a sport. “We spend so much time and energy in protecting the rights of women, and today we’re arguing about that very subject and not giving the protection to young women that we all work so hard to get. We talk about a small number, but it’s not certain.”
He said the number of transgender high school athletes is currently 15, but tomorrow it could be 30, and with that uncertainty comes the need for the bill.
Those that spoke out against the bill, include Dr. CK Raines Wilder, a board-certified family physician, who said the bill goes against the expert guidelines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and that there’s no actual evidence to support the claim that allowing trans athletes to participate will reduce or harm participation in girls’ sports.
She also said if the bill is passed, it will only hurt transgender youth further by increasing risks to their physical and mental well-being.
“At the end of the day, science is not the issue, politics are, and my hope is that you will vote like it’s your child that we’re talking about,” said Bishop Tonyia Rawls, Founder and Executive Director. Freedom Center for Social Justice, Charlotte, who said science was used as an excuse for why black people couldn’t get an education or why women weren’t allowed to go to college.
Rawls also said that every election cycle, members of the General Assembly “attack the most vulnerable to build wedges and stir their political base.”
Galey, a mother of a daughter who played sports, ended the discussion by saying there is a crisis among girls in society, where many are struggling with their mental health and place in the culture.
“I know that for my daughter and for thousands like her, having fair competition where she has an equal chance to win is very vital,” she said.
The bill passed the committee and now goes to the Senate Rules Committee.