ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CBSNewYork) — A transgender high school track athlete in Alaska made history – and created controversy – after competing in the girls’ state meet championships.
Anchorage CBS affiliate KTVA-TV reported that Nattaphon Wangyot of Haines High School qualified for the girls 1-2-3A 11-meter and 200-meter finals. The 18-year-old runner was born male and identifies as female.
Wangyot, who move from Thailand to Haines in 2014, told the Chilkat Valley News that she doesn’t have a competitive advantage over other girls because she takes female hormones and other drugs to suppress her body’s testosterone.
“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 Valley News. “It’s not like I was up and ‘OK, I’m a girl right now.’”
Saskia Harrison of Hutchison High School in Fairbanks, who missed the cut, didn’t think it was competitively fair that Wangyot competed on the girls side.
“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,” Harrison told KTVA.
Jim Minnery, president of the Alaska Family Action, protested along with a dozen others to Wangyot running.
“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 told the Alaska Dispatch News. “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.”
KTVA reported the Alaska Schools Activities Association implemented a policy to allow school districts to decide if a transgender athlete can compete in a sport as the gender they identify with, and not their birth gender.
“We didn’t want to necessarily create a situation where we were going to bring in a committee and those types of things just because it’s just not practical here,” Billy Strickland, the association’s executive director, told KTVA.
Wangyot finished third in the 200-meter dash at 27.3 seconds and fifth in the 100 at 13.36 seconds in the Class 3A girls’ sprints.
Wangyot told Alaska Public Media that she’s trying to ignore the negative reactions she got to running in the girls’ state meet.
“Just be yourself. It’s your life,” she said. “Nobody can control that. We have freedom. Everybody can talk everything bad to you, but just ignore it. Sometimes it’s so hard to do that, but it’s gonna be cool and really good in the future of your life.”
Wangyot also played volleyball and basketball for Haines High School.