Nattaphon “Ice” Wangyot, a male-t0-female transgender athlete became the first trans student to compete for a high school state championship last week.
Wangyot, a senior at Haines High School in Alaska, beat a number of biologically female competitors to the finals at the state Track & Field meet in Anchorage. But her presence at the race was met with some criticism from her fellow runners.
“I don’t know what’s politically correct to say, but in my opinion your gender is what you’re born with” said Peyton Young, another competitor at the meet, in a comment to Alaska Dispatch News. “It’s the DNA. Genetically a guy has more muscle mass than a girl, and if he’s racing against a girl, he may have an advantage.”
The event was also protested by the conservative group Alaska Family Action, who according to USA Today, arrived at the meet with a dozen supporters.
The group’s president, Jim Minnery, told the Alaska Dispatch News that allowing Wangyot to compete was unfair. “Allowing students to play on teams of the opposite sex disproportionately impacts female students, who will lose spots on track, soccer and volleyball teams to male students who identify as female.”
However, other Alaskan high schoolers at the event disagreed with the protests. “It’s cool that she’s got the confidence to be here,” one male high schooler said.
Alia Bales, another female high schooler at the event, told Alaska Dispatch News that if other female competitors, like defending chapion Tanner Ealum, were able to beat Wangyot, it would disprove the unfairness argument.
“If Tanner can beat her, anybody can have a chance to beat her” said Bales.
Haines (Alaska) senior sprinter Nattaphon “Ice” Wangyot made history at Alaska’s state track meet, becoming the first transgender student-athlete to compete individually for a high school state championship, according to the Alaska Dispatch News. As you might expect with any progressively historical event, it did not come without controversy.
Alaska Family Action president Jim Minnery and a dozen supporters of his conservative group gathered outside the state track meet to protest an 18-year-old who was trying to live her life, according to multiple local media reports.
“We are here today as a voice from the community to ensure that female athletes are not denied the playing opportunities and scholarships otherwise available to them and to make the playing field even again,” Minnery said during a press conference at the state meet, per the Alaska Dispatch News. “… Allowing students to play on teams of the opposite sex disproportionately impacts female students, who will lose spots on track, soccer and volleyball teams to male students who identify as female.”
Despite Minnery’s protests, Wangyot, a Thai native who was born male and identifies as female, qualified and competed in the Class 3A girls’ sprints at the state meet, capturing third place in the 200-meter dash (27.3) and fifth in the 100 (13.36). She also played for the girls volleyball and basketball teams at Haines during her senior year.
However, Fairbanks (Alaska) Hutchinson junior Saskia Harrison, whose time of 14.11 seconds in the 100 left her outside the 16-competitor cut for the Class 1A-2A-3A field, took issue with Wangyot’s presence in the event.
“I’m glad that this person is comfortable with who they are and they’re able to be happy with who they are,” she told KTVA-TV, “but competitively I don’t think it’s completely 100 percent fair.”
The Alaska School Activities Association ruled in May 2015 that the decision on a transgender student-athlete’s eligibility rests with each individual school district. So, when Wangyot approached her school’s administration prior to the fall volleyball season, Haines principal Rene Martin worked with the staff to develop a formal policy that would allow her to participate, regardless of whether anyone at the school supported Minnery’s conservative ideals, according to the Chilkat Daily News.
“Everybody doesn’t understand, and that’s OK,” Martin told the paper. “But you still have to show respect, and we work together and we talk about things and we try to make it respectful for everybody.”
Yet, Minnery waited an entire year — after the subject of which bathroom a transgender person can use became a national debate and before a teenager participated in the final event of her high school athletic career — to stir up controversy outside a high school track meet. On May 24, just days before the state track meet, Minnery joined 21 other leaders of conservative groups — most of which use the term “family” in their titles — in sending a letter to Senators Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid as well as Representatives Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy and Nancy Pelosi.
(Speaking of family, Wangyot’s mother, Tukta Panyawong, told the Chilkat Daily News, “You don’t have to be afraid. If you are transgender, you should be yourself. There’s nothing wrong. You’re still human. You’re a good person.”)
“As you are aware, executive agencies are not permitted to redefine a federal statute,” said the letter opposing President Obama’s stance on human rights. “Rather, legislative power is vested in theLegislative Branch. The Administration is clearly attempting to bypass the legislative process and ignore the original legislative intent, which did not intend to encompass claims of discrimination based on gender identity. Tellingly, the text of Title IX itself explicitly allows educational institutions to maintain ‘separate living facilities for the different sexes,’ indicating binary, biological sex. Separating the sexes based on legitimate anatomical and biological differences — especially in the context of bathrooms, locker rooms and showers — has always been viewed as consistent with Title IX and other federal nondiscrimination statutes.”
For the record, Wangyot uses a single-occupancy bathroom and showers alone as a coach stands guard, according to the Chilkat Valley News. The letter did not address how the inclusion of transgender student-athletes in high school athletics violates Title IX if teens who are born female and identify as male are also eligible to compete on boys’ teams.
As for any competitive edge she might gain from being born male — “Genetically a guy has more muscle mass than a girl,” one Class 4A competitor told the Alaska Dispatch News, “and if he’s racing against a girl, he may have an advantage” — Wangyot told reporters she takes female hormones and other drugs to suppress testosterone levels.
“The people who are going to think, ‘It’s not fair to play with the boys’ — well, you don’t know that. It’s not easy,” she told the Chilkat Valley News. “It’s not like I wake up and ‘OK, I’m a girl right now.'”
Which is why Wangyot decided to run this year — to provide an example for other transgender students interested in sports — and why Haines High School’s administration stood behind the teen in her quest to make Alaska history.
High school girls in Alaska do not appreciate losing track and field events to a biological male, even if he identifies as a girl. This year was the first time in the state's history that a male athlete competed in the girls' state championships, and not everyone is celebrating the transgender milestone.
Haines High School senior Nattaphon "Ice" Wangyot competed at the state championships in late May, running the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes. Wangyot immigrated from Thailand in 2014, and competed in girls' volleyball and basketball in the fall.
When Wangyot qualified for state earlier in May, one of the girls she beat was less than impressed. "I'm glad that this person is comfortable with who they are and they're able to be happy in who they are, but I don't think it's competitively completely 100-percent fair," said Saskia Harrison, a runner for Hutchison High School in Fairbanks. Harrison just missed the cut with a time of 14.11 seconds.
"I don't know what's politically correct to say, but in my opinion your gender is what you're born with," Peyton Young, a junior from Eagle River High School who won the 3,200-meter race, told the Alaska Dispatch News. "It's the DNA. Genetically a guy has more muscle mass than a girl, and if he's racing against a girl, he may have an advantage."
Jim Minnery, president of the conservative organization Alaska Family Action, held an afternoon press conference at the championships. "We are here today as a voice from the community to ensure that female athletes are not denied the playing opportunities and scholarships otherwise available to them and to make the playing field even again," Minnery declared.
He argued that "allowing students to play on teams of the opposite sex disproportionately impacts female students, who will lose spots on a track, soccer and volleyball teams to male students who identify as female."
this is just the beginning.A teen boy, that self-identifies as a girl, was allowed to compete in a girls’ state championships in Alaska. The boy, Nattaphon Wangyot, dominated the competition and will advance to the finals with All-State Honors In Girls Track And Field. The decision to let the student, that is biologically a male, compete in girls’ sports has caused an uproar in the community. An organized protest to prevent teen girls from competing against students that are biologically male has been launched in response.
Nattaphon Wangyot was allowed to participate in the girls’ competition due to a state law that allows each individual high school to determine whether or boys can compete in individual girls’ events. The Alaska Dispatch News reports that boys do not need to go through hormone treatment to be eligible to participate, the only requirement is that the boys self-identify as girls. The policy states that school officials will consider several intangible qualities to determine whether or not the student truly identifies as a female. The official school policy states:
“For the purposes of gender identification for interscholastic activities, the district will consider the gender identity based on the student’s consistent declaration of gender identity, their actions, attitude, dress and mannerisms,”
Wangyot advanced to the state finals in the 100-meter and 200-meter events. He won fifth place in the 100-meter dash and third place in the 200-meter. He beat out several biologically female student athletes to advance to the finals. Wangyot has a history of competing in female sports. According to the Alaska Dispatch News Wangyot also plays on the school’s girls’ basketball and volleyball team. Unfortunately for Wangyot this doesn’t mean much to several of the biological females who believe Wangyot’s biological status as a male gives him a clear advantage. Emma Daniels, a biological female student who lost an all-state roster spot to Wangyot, stated:
“I’m glad that this person is comfortable with who they are and they’re able to be happy in who they are, but I don’t think it’s competitively completely 100-percent fair,”
Daniels isn’t alone is viewing the situation as unfair. A second runner, Peyton Young, also commented on Wangyots advancement to the finals.
“I don’t know what’s politically correct to say, but in my opinion your gender is what you’re born with. It’s the DNA. Genetically a guy has more muscle mass than a girl, and if he’s racing against a girl, he may have an advantage.”
Alaska Family Action president Jim Minnery has organized a protest to focus on preventing teen girls from being forced to compete against male athletes in the future. He argues that while allowing a male student that identifies as a female to compete in girls’ sporting events empowers that single student it also creates an uneven playing field that puts girls at a severe disadvantage. Girls can lose roster spots, playing time and even scholarships due to the impact of allowing male students to participate. He stated to the Alaskan Dispatch News:
“We are here today as a voice from the community to ensure that female athletes are not denied the playing opportunities and scholarships otherwise available to them and to make the playing field even again. Allowing students to play on teams of the opposite sex disproportionately impacts female students, who will lose spots on a track, soccer and volleyball teams to male students who identify as female.”
As of now there are no plans to remove Wangyot from the girls roster and he will be allowed to continue to participate in the events.