Utah Investigated Girl’s Gender After Parents Complained She Was Too Good At Sports

A state athletic association looked at the student's records going back to kindergarten—and her parents were not informed.

Utah Investigated Girl’s Gender After Parents Complained She Was Too Good At Sports
Photo:Rick Bowmer (AP)

The state body that governs high school sports in Utah has apparently investigated a girl’s gender because other kids’ parents complained that she was too good of an athlete. During a committee hearing about the state’s ban on trans girls playing sports on Wednesday, a representative for the Utah High School Activities Association detailed just how extensive the investigation was.

The student in question is in high school, but the school went back to her kindergarten enrollment records to confirm that “she’d always been a female,” David Spatafore told state legislators on an education committee. He withheld the girl’s name, sport, grade and school division, The Deseret News reported. While at the very least, this governing body isn’t interested in publicly humiliating this child, it doesn’t negate the fact that public officials are in the business of interrogating a student’s gender presentation and athletic ability—especially without informing the child’s parents. A reminder: It is not illegal to be a trans child in Utah or anywhere in America.

This is not the first time the association has investigated a child’s gender to confirm they’re competing on the “right” sports team. Spatafore told the legislature that his office has received numerous complaints about potential trans kid athletes. Among the most common is that a “female athlete doesn’t look feminine enough.”

All complaints were taken “seriously,” he said. “We followed up on all of those complaints with the school and the school system.”

For this case, parents were not informed of the targeted search of their student’s records because the schools answered the necessary questions, he said. “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 schools, there was no reason to make it a personal situation with a family or that athlete,” Spatafore told the legislature.

This latest validation of trans panic comes because the Utah legislature overrode the Republican governor’s veto on a bill that bans trans athletes from girls sports in the state. The law was challenged in May, but took effect on July 1. “Quite frankly, this is new ground for us. I’m not going to say that we have it down pat, because I have no clue,” Spatafore said. “What we want to do is we just want to try to do our job.”

During debate over the bill, the governor pointed out just how few people this ban would be targeting. There are 75,000 high school students on Utah high school sports team, yet only four trans kids are competing. Of those, only one students is playing on girls’ sports teams. The bill seemed to be directly aimed a tiny minority of kids—and for the minority that would come after them.

Not only is incredibly troubling that the state feels comfortable investigating children based on adults’ anger about the result of a high school sports game, it’s eye-popping that there isn’t a policy in place for such situations. By Spatafore’s own admission, the commission investigates each complaint. Why doesn’t his office have a policy in place yet?

Adults are not only failing trans kids in Utah, but they’re failing anyone who dares to stray from stereotypical male and female gender presentations. As the girl at the center of this investigation proves: Trans sports bans do not just affect trans kids. Cis people will get caught up in this drag net. One doesn’t need to be a non-conforming woman performing at the level of Caster Semenya—they’re coming for all of us.

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