NORTHERN NECK, Va. (WRIC)—By a 27 to 0 margin, the Virginia High School League changed the rules for transgender high school athletes.
With proper documentation, a high schooler can now play sports alongside the gender with which he or she identifies.
Natalie Gates was born male, but around the age of 13, she realized male didn't fit her.
"It was just realizing this is already who I am and kind of accepting that," she said. "I used to come across as a straight guy, but it was following a script. Now I'm happier."
Gates is thrilled that the Virginia High School League has approved a policy that is more understanding for young transgender athletes.
"I think it is incredible. I did not expect anything like this to happen within the near future," she said.
VHSL Executive Director Ken Tilley says the unanimous rule change is based on policies in 18 other states. The organization has had four students inquire about gender eligibility in recent years.
"We recognize that this is a reality that we have students in this particular situation, and we want to be proactive, we don't want to be reactive," he said.
But Victoria Cobb with the Family Foundation believes this rule sets a double standard.
"This is the same league that won't allow home-schooled students to participate, because they say it will be disruptive and dangerous," Cobb said. "A person who is a male by all genetic features can then go and play on a girl's team. If that's not going to be disruptive and dangerous, I don't know what is."
The rule change contains specific language about surgical procedures and hormone therapy. It's also left up to an expert to determine if a student athlete has truly transitioned from one gender to another.
The language is designed to prevent any sort of advantage any athlete could gain if not fully transitioned.
"It's in effect immediately," Tilley said. "It was in effect when it was voted on today."
Gates is happy younger kids like her will have this rule change.
"I'm not much of a sports person, but I think it's great," she said. "I would've loved it."
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