The athletic association that governs most of New Jersey's high school sports has updated its policy to allow biological male students to play on girls sports teams and vice versa without having to provide proof or some sort of documentation of their gender dysphoria.
On Wednesday, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association executive committee approved a policy that allows transgender students to simply notify their school administration if they desire to change genders without required medical consultation.
"A transgender student, defined as a student whose gender identity differs from the student's sex assigned at birth, shall be eligible to participate in accordance with either their birth sex or in accordance with their gender identity, but not both," the policy explains.
Additionally, the policy states that transgender student athletes may also be granted permission to use banned substances deemed required for hormone therapy if they submit for consideration from a NJSIAA medical review officer.
The policy allows for member schools to appeal the eligibility of a transgender student-athlete "on the grounds that the student's participation in interscholastic athletics would adversely affect competition or safety."
Such appeals would be heard by the Eligibility Appeals Committee, which "will not consider whether the school has properly determined the student's sex-assignment."
"NJSIAA has a duty to address major issues impacting the student-athletes we represent," NJSIAA Executive Director Steven Timko said in a statement. "This policy simply states that we will allow the student-athlete to participate in accordance with their identified gender."
The NJSIAA first adopted a transgender policy in 2009. According to a press release, the association felt the need to update the policy after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a law permitting transgender students to participate in athletic teams on the basis of their gender identity.
NJSIAA attorney Steve Goodell told the PressofAtlanticCity.com that the enactment of the association's new transgender policy comes as complaints were received from the LGBT community that the previous policy requiring proof of a transgender student's gender identity was unfair.
"The last year or so we've gotten some requests from the transgender community to make some tweaks," Goodell explained. "They didn't like the idea of someone having to prove the transgender status. They really made a convincing case that this is not something the students are making up to try to game the system."
The new policy also prevents students from changing their gender in the middle of a sports season.
"We have our own rules about (any athlete) changing sports in the middle of the season," Goodell explained. "You just can't do that."
According to the North Jersey Record, the policy update passed in the executive committee by a show-of-hands vote. Only about six of the roughly 30 members of the committee voted against the policy change.
The NJSIAA policy update was praised by LGBT and transgender rights groups.
The LGBT group GLSEN of Southern New Jersey said on Facebook that the policy change removes "barriers" for high school athletes.
Social conservatives and some feminists have warned against the idea of allowing biologically male transgender students to play on girls' sports teams because of the biological advantage that they may possess.
As The Stream's Heather Zeiger noted in a June op-ed, "small variations" of testosterone "make all the difference" when it comes to high-performance competitions.
"Some differences can't be changed, even with surgery and hormone treatments," she wrote. "One of the major differences between male and female runners is the hip structure along with everything attached to hip movement. It's not just a matter of having wide or narrow hips. A key difference is the ratio between hip width and femur length. Women tend to have a greater hip width-to-femur length ratio, which leads to greater hip adduction — that is, movement toward the center of the body. This difference has a domino effect that results in small differences in joint rotation and muscle recruitment. In other words, men and women differ in how the lower parts of their bodies move as a coordinated wholes."
Zeiger also argued that allowing biological men to play sports could have a negative impact when it comes to the opportunity women are provided by all-female sporting leagues and competitions.
"Of course elite athletes are by definition outside the norm. But there's something wrong when half of the population has an inherent disadvantage. If biological males can compete against biological females, it won't be long, especially in elite sports, before males win all the races and hold all the records," Zeiger wrote.
"Women will, in effect, but pushed out of competition because they were born with female bodies. Does that make any sense? As Jeff Jacobs asks in his thoughtful article in the Hartford Courant, 'What do we tell these girls? A transgender's journey is more important than your journey?'"