Transgender equality discussion takes center stage at state track meet

 Ben Gauthier / KTUU
Ben Gauthier / KTUU (KTUU)
Published: May. 27, 2016 at 9:28 PM AKDT
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It’s a controversial conversation happening all over the country -- Should students who were born as one sex and identify with another be able to participate in the same activities as the gender they identify with?

That is the conversation at this weekend’s state track meet in Anchorage.

Nattaphon Wangyot is representing Haines High School in the women’s 3A 200 meter race at the state track meet.

Wangyot was born a male but identifies as a female.

Members of the Alaska Family Action were just outside the meet at Dimond High School Friday afternoon to speak to the press about a recent change to policies letting transgender students compete in sports with the gender they identify with.

The group says the issue goes against a federal anti-discrimination law called Title IX.

“Biologically born athletes are now encouraged based on this new policy to participate in sports against women and vice versa,” said Jim Minnery with the organization. “Title 9 was enacted in 1972 to remedy a history of discrimination against women in educational opportunities.”

Last month, the Alaska School Activities Association voted to accept the policy in place at the student’s school when it comes to sports participation.

“That determination is not appealable to ASAA,” said Executive Director Billy Strickland who says the body will not make the gender-identity determination itself. “I think that we’re running a track meet and we’ve got another student participating and we’re happy about that."

But not everyone is satisfied. “It’s not about anything other than fairness and equality for student athletes, girls in particular in this track meet are having to run against someone that has different DNA,” said Stephanie Williams, a parent who spoke alongside Minnery Friday afternoon.

“Obviously we have some people that don’t like the policy and we’ve also heard from people that say they do like it,” said Strickland.

For now, Strickland would like the conversation focused on the success of student athletes.

“It’s a newsworthy event but at the same time we had a state record broken today and I would rather see that being covered more so than some of the other stuff,” said Strickland.

Channel 2 reached out to the Haines School District but did not get back to us in time for when this story aired.

Wangyot’s coaches say she would not comment because they’d like her to be focused on her upcoming Saturday race.

Last year, the Anchorage School District adopted a policy allowing students to participate consistent with their gender identity.


Today the Haines School District spoke in support of Nattaphon Wangyot after Alaska Family Action said the school district was breaking anti discrimination laws by letting her compete.

“Frankly I flew up yesterday, and did not plan on attending,” said Rich Carlson Superintendent Haines School District. “It became real apparent this issue was getting bigger than I was comfortable sitting back in Haines. So flew up yesterday.”

Alaska Family Action claims Carlson school district was breaking a federal anti-discrimination law called Title IX.

Carlson claims his school district did everything it needed to make sure Wangyot was able to legally participate in track and field, volleyball and basketball.

“We certainly feel like we adhere to the rules, and we certainly feel like we adhere to Title IX.”

The superintendent says the district followed the ASAA rules which uses the policy at the athlete’s school. This fall Carlson said Haines School District put together a policy with guidelines for athletes that identify with a different gender.

“The guidelines are for how we function on a day to day basis in the school, and use of different facilities. All of those things you can imagine would go into something like this.”

Carlson says today was a sense of relief to watch Wangyot finish the season.

“To see her cross the finish line of her last race in 3rd place in her last race, I think she felt a sense of relief, and we all felt since of relief. We are proud of her very proud of her.”