Parents complain cis athlete might be trans because she ‘doesn’t look feminine enough’

David Spatafore sitting at a speaker's desk during the EIC Utah meeting.

Parents at an Utah school called for an investigation into whether a cisgender girl who “outclassed” the competition in athletics was a trans woman.

The parents of second and third-place competitors lodged several complaints with the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) as to the gender identity of the first-place winner, prompting an investigation into her gender identity.

UHSAA’s legal representative David Spatafore addressed the situation during an Education Interim Committee meeting on Wednesday (17 August) where he said the organisation asked the Utah school to investigate without informing the student or family.

After examining the student’s enrolment records as far back as kindergarten, investigators found that “she’d always been a female”, as Spatafore said without revealing the identity of the student for safety purposes.

Spatafore also told the committee UHSAA has received other complaints that “female athletes don’t look feminine enough”.

“[We] took every one of those complaints seriously,” he continued. “We followed up on all of those complaints with the school and the school system.

“We didn’t get to the parents or the student simply because if all of the questions about eligibility were answered by the school or the feeder system of schools, there was no reason to make it a personal situation with a family or that athlete.”

‘We don’t have a clue’

During the committee meeting, members also discussed House Bill 11 (HB 11) which bans trans athletes from competing in girls’ sports. The bill, which was passed in March despite a veto from governor Spencer Cox after he questioned its eligibility, requires UHSAA to screen for trans competitors.

Spatafore told members that, despite it being “new ground” for the organisation, it was striving to follow HB 11 as best it could, saying: “I’m not going to say that we have it down, because I have no clue. I don’t think any of us in the office have a clue if we have it down. What we want to do is we just want to try to do our job.”

After its implementation, two families of trans youth sued Utah for what they described as “disfavoured treatment” against trans people. The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit after their respective daughters were “denied an equal opportunity to play school sports on the same terms as other girls” after the ban went into effect on 1 July.

One of the sponsors of the bill, Republican representative Kera Birkeland, said that despite the families suing, “it is law,” while complaining that the lawsuit undermines what she sees as hard work.

“I spent two years working on this legislation,” she said. “And to hear that ‘well, a judge might enjoin it,’ it kind of undermines our process of trying to create legislation and laws to properly govern the people that have elected us.

“I would ask, and this is just me asking, that whenever possible, state law is at least informed to the people that will be using the system,” she continued.