Equality Virginia: VHSL transgender policy leading the South and nation

Published: Jun. 1, 2016 at 5:59 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 1, 2016 at 7:03 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Virginia High School League's new policy for transgender athletes is one that experts say is leading the South and the nation.

VHSL changed the policy one year ago after backlash surrounding the former policy they created only a few years earlier. Prior, there was no policy.

The former policy included:

  • References from a medical professional
  • Counseling
  • All of the hormone replacement and surgery needed to be fully committed to being a person of the desired gender.

Equality Virginia and Virginia Pride say these policies were too restrictive and would prevent many, if not all transgender students from playing, because most transgender people don't receive hormone therapy or surgery until adulthood.

James Parrish is the Executive Director for Equality Virginia; Equality Virginia worked with experts and the VHSL on revamping their policy.

"Surgery doesn't usually occur until you are 18 or older," Parrish said. "Even if you do that, some don't consider surgery necessary for their gender identity."

VHSL worked to make their policy less restrictive. Parrish and James Millner of Virginia Pride say this policy leads the nation.

"Now they are actually leading the South and the nation on this issue," Millner said.

The current policy includes:

  • Letters of recommendation from parents, friends or teachers
  • A students medications or treatments
  • A note from a medical professional
  • Any documentation that will demonstrate the students gender identity

This also includes what a student must do if they are turned away.

Ken Tilley, the executive director for VHSL, said the organization didn't want to prevent any student from playing sports and that the former policy needed an update. He also said many other states enacted the older policy VHSL once followed.

"We decided we could probably modify our requirements and base it more on gender identity," Tilley said. "As we learned more about it, we decided we could probably modify our requirements."

Modifications that Andrew Wilson, a transgender senior in high school in Petersburg, said were much needed.

"I believe I was the first transgender kid to want to play sports as well [at my high school]," Wilson said. "It would be very difficult for a trans person in high school to meet those [former] requirements."

It's important to note that about five years ago, there was no policy. When a policy was created, Equality Virginia was happy VHSL was recognizing the transgender youth in Virginia schools.

Since enactment, only three transgender students have asked to participate. One was turned away.

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