High school sports are starting back up in Wyoming, but this time with a slight change.
The Wyoming High School Activities Association is rolling out management of a new law prohibiting transgender girls from competing in girls' sports, Trevor Wilson, the association’s commissioner, confirmed Wednesday to Cowboy State Daily.
“We will follow state statute,” he said.
Wilson said he’s already received a few emails accusing his organization of not adhering to the new law, but said that’s not true and there is no confusion or ambiguity about how WHSAA should consider questions of transgender participation in public high school sports.
“I think there’s a group of people who are trying to make it (an issue) just based on some emails that I have,” Wilson said. “But it’s very clear in our policy that we will follow state statute, and we intend to do so.”
What That Means
WHSAA already has established rules for transgender athletic participation issues moving forward in Wyoming, which states that “if a Wyoming statute establishes rules and regulations governing transgender participation in sports and activities, the WHSAA shall adhere to and comply with such state statute.”
The Wyoming Legislature took WHSAA out of the equation by banning transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports.
“It’s no longer really an issue for us, it’s a state statute that we follow just like the concussion law and those types of things,” Wilson said.
The new law goes on to read that if the state law is overruled by a federal mandate or is not allowed to be enforced, WHSAA will consider issues of transgender participation as it had previously done.
What that means is that if the Wyoming law, Senate Enrolled Act 92, is determined to be fully unlawful in court, WHSAA will revert to its previous policy.
The WHSAA’s prior policy on transgender athletics left it up to individual schools to determine eligibility when making these types of reviews.
But the new law also contains an alternate provision that would become effective if a court were to block or overrule its ban portion. In that event, the Wyoming High School Activities Association would appoint an independent board to review transgender athlete appeals on a case-by-case basis.
There has been some ambiguity about whether a proposed Title IX rule change from President Joe Biden’s administration in April affects Wyoming’s new law.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Title IX proposal would affect transgender people who want to participate in K-12 and collegiate athletics and would prohibit schools from "categorically" banning transgender students from competing on athletic teams that are consistent with their gender identities.
The Biden administration received more than 132,000 public comments about the rule change. There’s been no action on the proposal and Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder told Cowboy State Daily she hasn’t heard any update on the matter.
Degenfelder and Gov. Mark Gordon sent separate letters in May requesting the rule proposal be withdrawn or delayed until the U.S. Supreme Court can address the issue.
There have been a few lawsuits filed for and against bans on transgender athletics nationwide.
A group of female track and field athletes in Connecticut sued their state over its policy allowing transgender athletes to compete in girls’ athletic events. In July, a federal judge blocked an Arizona law banning transgender girls from girls' teams.
The U.S. Department of Education’s rule asserts that criteria assuming all transgender girls and women possess an unfair physical advantage over girls and women is a generalization that would not comply with the department’s proposed regulation.
Many transgender girls and women use testosterone blockers to assist with their transitions, a point that those who support their participation in girls' and women's sports have invoked.
The rule, if passed, would offer flexibility to K-12 schools and universities to limit participation of transgender students if it is determined their presence would undermine "fairness in competition" or potentially lead to sports-related injuries.
The rule would likely block the implementation of Wyoming’s new law and return the WHSAA closer to its previous policy on transgender athletics.
The rule change, which claims to promote equal athletic opportunity, would give the Department of Education the ability to investigate and potentially withhold federal money from schools that violate it.
What The Wyoming Law Says
As written, the Wyoming law determines an athlete’s sex based on gender at birth. Many LGBTQ advocates oppose this as a form of discrimination, while lawmakers who backed the law say it promotes fairness and safety in the sports field.
“We will follow state statute, if it says a birth certificate, that’s what we will follow,” Wilson said.
The new law does not prevent a transgender girl from practicing or training on a girls' team, but it does prevent that athlete from taking a roster spot from any girl or competing in competitions.
In March, LGBTQ advocacy group Wyoming Equality said a lawsuit would be forthcoming fighting the transgender sports law, but Cowboy State Daily was not able to find any record of such a suit as of Wednesday afternoon.
The law also allows any student, parent or guardian of a student believed to be aggrieved by a school or organization for failing to enforce the law to seek a review with the Wyoming Administrative Procedures Act.
Wilson said no reviews have been filed yet for this fall.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.