Texas superintendents have overwhelmingly approved a rule making birth certificates the official determinant of a student-athlete's gender for playing high school sports, a policy transgender advocates have decried as exclusionary and outdated.
In October, the 32-member legislative council of the University Interscholastic League, the governing body for Texas high school sports, passed on the opportunity to vote on the proposed rule, instead deciding to send it to the superintendents of member districts for approval.
Voting results, posted Thursday, show they approved the rule 586-32, with two not responding. Changes to the UIL’s constitution also require approval from the state education commissioner. But a UIL spokeswoman said then-Commissioner Michael Williams approved the policy in November, meaning it is final.
Previously, the UIL had informally enforced the policy, which now is slated to become the UIL's official position beginning Aug. 1.
The UIL’s "Non-Discrimination Policy" already bans member schools from denying students a chance to play on sports teams because of their disability, race, color, gender, religion or national origin.
The new addition to that policy says: "Gender shall be determined based on a student's birth certificate. In cases where a student's birth certificate is unavailable, other similar government documents used for the purpose of identification may be submitted."
Transgender advocates say this kind of policy will prevent transgender kids from playing sports because most do not identify with the gender on their birth certificates and changing it requires having sex reassignment surgery.
Many states are moving in the opposite direction of Texas, with more than a dozen having adopted policies in recent years that allow transgender student-athletes to participate in sports based on their gender identity — not the gender on their birth certificates. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has a similar policy.
The concern that transgender girls will be far better players than those who were born female has not panned out in states that have adopted policies that allow transgender student-athletes to participate based on gender identity, according to Asaf Orr, the staff attorney for the Transgender Youth Project at the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
"We are not getting these hulking guys claiming to be girls dominating sports," Orr told the Tribune in October. "If we do see strong transgender athletes, it’s because they're superstar athletes; it's not because they're transgender."
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said current Education Commissioner Mike Morath approved a change in the University Interscholastic League's policy. The policy change was approved last year by Michael Williams, who was commissioner at the time.