SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Transgender student-athletes cannot compete in sports outside of the gender they were assigned at birth. That decision was handed down Wednesday by the Georgia High School Association (GHSA).

The ban passed unanimously, but many say it’s discrimination.

“I honestly think it’s pretty disgusting. I think that trans athletes have been competing in sports for a while with no issue,” said Tobi Hawthorne, a transgender youth advocate from Brunswick.

Hawthorne thinks GHSA’s ban on transgender athletes will have effects beyond sports.

“You’re going to see a spike in the depression, the anxiety,” they said. “A lot of kids are probably not going to be coming to school as often if they don’t feel welcome.”

Hawthorne, who is transgender and nonbinary, was a competitive gymnast as a child, but after coming out in high school, they say they were forced out of physical education.

“Because you made the other people feel uncomfortable in the locker rooms by being an openly queer person,” Hawthorne said they were told. “We weren’t even allowed to participate in gym class, and I dropped out of high school shortly after that, actually.”

The ban impacts 436 high schools statewide and reverts back to GHSA’s 2017 bylaws which require all students to compete based on the gender on their birth certificate.

GHSA officials say the policy, like all association policies, can be appealed, but Hawthorne says the damage may have already been done by then.

“I think that there’s a long, tough road ahead of us,” they said, “and I think we’re going to lose a lot of trans kids in the process.”

The Georgia High School Association’s new policy takes effect immediately, meaning it will impact students heading into the 2022-23 school year.