Tony Bias, a transgender male who is currently a sophomore at River City High School in Sacramento, California is learning what it's like to be a transgender high school athlete. Born Toni Bias, Tony has decided at the age of 15 to transition from female to male. Tony once had high hopes of playing professional basketball but after coming out as transgender and becoming the victim of bullying by fellow schoolmates, Tony stopped playing basketball and now just shoots around alone in the gym during his free time. According to GLSEN, 90% of LGBT students hear anti-LGBT comments in school while 74% of transgender youth report sexual harassment at school and 55% of transgender youth report physical attacks based on their gender identity and/or expression.
At the time Tony decided to play on the boys' basketball team, California did not have a state wide bill that assured transgender athletes could play on the team that coincide with their identified gender. Policies in the state varied by schools and often time's transgender students were unaware of their rights. California with the help of assembly member Tom Ammiano now has the State Interscholastic Federation bill which Mr. Ammiano says, "would ensure that transgender students all over the state were able to play school sports on teams where they felt safe and comfortable".
Transgender athletes have always faced criticism because some feel male to female transgender persons have anatomical advantages over their cis-gender female opponents and some feel locker room use by persons of the opposite sex would make teammates uncomfortable. Maintaining competitive fairness is the challenge faced by sports organizations. Such organizations as The National Collegiate Athletic Association require one full year of hormone replacement therapy by male-to-female transgender athletes before competing on a women's team. The International Olympic Committee requires transgender athletes who want to compete, to undergo sex reassignment surgery and hormone replacement therapy. With California's new policy, regarding transgender athletes, parents or the student need only send a letter asserting their gender identity and the case will be reviewed.
California's new policy is a progressive step for transgender persons. Anti-discrimination laws often have gaps and are not inclusive. California before the passing of the State Interscholastic Federation bill had anti-discrimination laws protecting transgender persons but it didn't include specifics regarding transgender athletes in state high schools. Although Tony next year will be allowed to try-out for the boys' basketball team, he said he will not. Harassment and tormenting by Tony's peers has diminished his love for basketball.
“I miss it so much, to be who I am, I’ve had to give up something that’s really big in my life.”