Student athletes at Texas public high schools must show their birth certificates as proof of gender identity under a policy change adopted overwhelmingly in February by school superintendents. LGBT activists say the change is unfair to transgender athletes but supporters note attempts to erase biological gender are an untested social experiment with far-reaching and unforeseen consequences.
“You start needing to check birth certificates when you have a breakdown of honesty, integrity, or, in this case, worldview,” said John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. “But requiring a birth certificate is not the issue. What’s going on now is a social experiment. The concept of gender being detached from biological, sexual reality is brand new.”
The University Interscholastic League (UIL), the state’s governing body for high school sports, said the requirement will systematize advice the league has been giving to superintendents. The policy change, adopted by a 586-32 vote, goes into effect Aug. 1.
“When we were asked by a school for guidance, that was the recommendation we gave them, although we told them to work through their own process and own legal counsel as well,” said UIL policy director Jamey Harrison.
Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council (FRC), said the decision to define the policy is a good one.
“Our position at FRC is that government entities, including schools, have no obligation to recognize a change in gender identity from the biological sex at birth,” he said. “This is especially important when it comes to athletics because there are undeniable physical differences between the sexes.”
Birth certificates can be amended to change gender, but transgender advocates say the difficulty and expense of the process are prohibitive and could deny transgender athletes the opportunity to compete.
“At the high school level, we should be encouraging participation for all students,” said Chris Mosier, founder of TransAthlete.com. “Texas school leaders have a responsibility to ensure that transgender athletes can participate in a way that is safe, comfortable, and affirming of their identity.”
But Stonestreet and Sprigg assert the created order inherent to Christian belief should take precedent over individual choice. Anything else, Sprigg said, is “rebellion” against God.
“From a Christian perspective, the Bible says several times ‘male and female He created them’ and this is a part of the created order,” Sprigg said. “From a theological perspective, to seek to change one’s gender is a rebellion against God’s created order.”
Compassion and therapy are appropriate responses to people who want to change their gender and that therapy can “help them overcome these feelings rather than simply indulging feelings that are contrary to nature,” Sprigg added.
The Texas amendment is in stark contrast to new transgender rules for Olympic athletes. In late January, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced it would allow an athlete to compete as a member of the sex with which he or she identified, even without first undergoing gender reassignment surgery.
Now, female-to-male transgender athletes are eligible to take part in men’s competitions without restrictions. Male-to-female transgender athletes must demonstrate that testosterone levels are below a certain level for at least a year before their first competition.
The Texas policy change also flies in the face of laws across the country allowing transgender people to choose bathrooms based on their preference, rather than on the anatomy with which they were born.
Stonestreet said he believes the amendment could be evidence of a movement in the right direction but isn’t convinced it’s a long-term solution.
“The question is why we’re having this conversation,” he said. “Society has found gender diversity to be important to recognize, but when they’ve gotten the application of those things wrong, it hasn’t gone well for people.”
— by Melinda Taylor