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AIA Alters Language Of Transgender Policy For Arizona Student-Athletes

In order to lower the level of invasiveness included in gender identification discussions for students, the Arizona Interscholastic Association approved adjustments to the language of its transgender rule at a meeting on Dec. 10.

The changes were made within the AIA’s sports medicine rules that are found in Article 41. If the student “has a consistent gender identity different than the sex listed on the student’s school registration records,” students or parents must still contact their school administrator or athletic director. Students had to previously explain the reasoning for their request, along with the point in time when they began to identify with a different gender.

The rule’s new language requires “a description of the student’s gender story, including age at emerging awareness of incongruence between sex assigned at birth and gender identity and where the student is in the gender transition process.”

It also asks for a letter of support from the parent or guardian of the student as opposed to the previous “documentation of the student’s consistent gender identification affirmed by” from the parent or guardian.

The change was made to decrease the level of intrusiveness in a highly personal discussion, explained AIA executive director David Hines.

“We listened to the kids, the parents and the docs that kind of oversee this process with us, and took some of their suggestions,” he said. “Sometimes when a question is asked, the kids were a little uncomfortable responding. So, what the docs said is, ‘Look, we’re not trying to be specific; we want to know kind of the process that you’ve gone through. Just give us your background.’ We’re getting the same information, and the kids feel it’s a little less invasive.”

The AIA first approved a transgender student-athlete to participate in a sport in 2014 and over the last few years only two or three Arizona students requested gender identification changes, with all of the requests having been approved. 

“If you were to meet each of these kids, you would probably (say) this was a no-brainer,” he said. “None of them are dominating (in their sport). They just want to be part of the team, and their team accepts them. It’s a positive thing, not a challenge.”

With the language change, there is no anticipation of a flood of new requests or students attempting to use the rule for a competitive advantage.

“I think it’s a challenging time for the kids, and if they have felt comfortable and they recognize themselves as another gender and have for a long time, then those are kids that we’re looking to try to help. We’ve been real fortunate not to have someone that was trying to get an athletic advantage,” he said. “It’s been a very positive experience that we’ve been going through the last five or six years, and we think this will be a good move … We’re just trying to move with the times. We had a policy for a while and we’re learning more and more, and trying to be helpful.”