Biologically Male Middle School Student Can Run on Girls’ Cross Country Team, Judge Rules

Man running on a gravel road during the day with a blue shirt on
by Mary Margaret Olohan


A biologically male middle school student may run on a girl’s cross country team this fall in spite of West Virginia’s new law banning biological males from women’s sports, U.S. Circuit Judge Joseph R. Goodwin ruled Wednesday.

Lawyers from the ACLU-West Virginia had argued that HB 3293 would unfairly prevent the 11-year-old student, Becky Pepper-Jackson, from participating on a girls cross country team.

Goodwin issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday allowing Pepper-Jackson to “sign up for and participate in school athletics in the same way as her girl classmates.”

“A fear of the unknown and discomfort with the unfamiliar have motivated many of the most malignant harms committed by our country’s governments on their own citizens,” Goodwin said. “Out of fear of those less like them, the powerful have made laws that restricted who could attend what schools, who could work certain jobs, who could marry whom, and even how people can practice their religions.”

“At this point, I have been provided with scant evidence that this law addresses any problem at all, let alone an important problem,” the judge said of HB 3293. “When the government distinguishes between different groups of people, those distinctions must be supported by compelling reasons.”

Pepper-Jackson began identifying as a girl at a very young age and would dress as a girl at home but a boy at school, according to the court filing. The child was reportedly diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2019, began puberty-delaying treatment in June 2020, and is now entering sixth grade.

“Plaintiff avers that this treatment, which prevents endogenous puberty and therefore any physiological changes caused by increased testosterone circulation, prevents her from developing any physiological advantage over other girl athletes,” the filing said.

West Virginia’s legislation would not only require students to participate in sports that align with their biological sex, but also mandates students to provide birth certificates to the school in order to indicate gender.

The state joins several others drawing up legislation banning biological males from women’s sports. Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed Arkansas’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act into law in late March, but later drew fire for vetoing a bill banning transgender surgeries and procedures for minors.

The state legislature overrode his veto, making Arkansas the first state to ban the procedures for minors, but a federal judge temporarily blocked the enforcement of the law Wednesday.

South Dakota’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act was thrust into the national spotlight when Gov. Kristi Noem refused to sign the legislation without her suggested changes.

Noem said the bill would subject South Dakota to lawsuits the state could not win and said she seeks to “protect girls” through other measures, including two executive orders: one to “protect fairness in K-12 athletics” and another to “do so in college athletics.”

She has insisted that she did not cave to pressure from groups like the NCAA, which later publicly warned in April that it would pull out of states that do not allow transgender students to participate in college sports.

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Mary Margaret Olohan is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.






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