Press Release • February 8, 2023

Equality North Carolina denounces reversal of inclusive trans athletics policy by New Hanover Board of Education

For Immediate Release

Alainna Liloia | Equality NC |

RALEIGH – Last night, New Hanover County Board of Education voted 4-3 to reverse a trans-inclusive athletics policy enacted by the previous school board. The amended policy will ban trans middle school athletes from participating in the sport that aligns with their gender. The previous policy was viewed as a model for trans inclusion in athletics. Opponents of the reversal noted that there have been no known issues with the inclusive policy and that this is a "backdoor attempt" to take away the rights of transgender students.

The new policy forces middle school students to play the sport of their sex assigned at birth. This unnecessary policy is an attack on the rights of trans youth that will prevent many trans children from participating in sports.

The meeting where the vote took place was contentious, with the far-right neo-fascist group the Proud Boys showing up to express their opposition to trans inclusion in school sports. The presence of the Proud Boys at the meeting draws our attention to the larger context of extremist movements targeting the LGBTQ+ community with violence and hate, including the recent attacks on drag shows in Moore county and across the country. The policy reversal by the New Hanover Board of Education is rooted in the same hatred that stokes violence and the same intention to deny LGBTQ+ people existence.

Our schools should protect all students and respect all families—including queer and trans students and families—so they can learn and thrive in a safe environment. Trans youth already face discrimination in their daily lives and turn to sports as an affirming space. The new policy will mean that trans athletes miss out on forming friendships and learning important life lessons through sports like self-discipline, self-respect, and what it means to be part of a team. This policy sends a dangerous message to our trans youth and increases existing risks to their physical and emotional wellbeing.

ENC Executive Director Kendra R. Johnson (she/her) said:

We are horrified by the New Hanover County Board of Education's decision to reverse its trans-inclusive athletics policy. Sports and athletics are an important part of education for all students, and no child should be denied from participating simply because of who they are. We recognize this policy reversal for what it is – an targeted attack on trans youth to take away their rights and delegitimize their identities. Anti-trans bills are on the rise across the country, with elected officials using schools as a space to push their bigoted and anti-LGBTQ+ agenda. Queer and trans youth deserve to have the same experiences in school as their peers, and we urge our elected officials to take a stand against this policy and others like it that discriminate against LGBTQ+ youth.

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Equality North Carolina builds LGBTQ+ power through advocacy, education, and uplifting the stories of queer and trans North Carolinians in pursuit of racial and social justice.

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