RALEIGH — Payton McNabb calls growing up in the mountains of western North Carolina a “blessing.” Rooted in faith, McNabb says she has relied on her foundation in Christ to stand up for what she believes is right.
“I know what I’m doing is right. I feel like other people may not have that, so that’s why they’re afraid. When everyone stands up for what’s right hopefully this whole thing will just be over,” she told North State Journal in an interview about the upcoming week in the legislature.
Her faith has helped her through a difficult season of life, when a high school volleyball match in September 2022 permanently altered her life and her health.
McNabb was knocked unconscious and exhibited a fencing response, which indicates a traumatic brain injury, following a forceful blow to the head from a volleyball spike by a biological male playing on the opponent’s team. The sheer impact of left McNabb with significant long-term physical and mental effects, including impaired vision, partial paralysis on her right side, and anxiety and depression.
In the aftermath, McNabb, now a spokeswoman with Independent Women’s Forum, detailed what she knew at the time and why HB 574 should become law.
McNabb told North State Journal that her high school, Hiwassee Dam, had to be informed there was a transgender player on the team. She said that the players on the team and administration were aware of who the individual was and that the player was previously homeschooled.
“We did know because they’re the same age as me (and her teammates) and once they started high school, started playing sports, they had to tell every school ‘we have a transgender player on our team,’” said McNabb.
“And they were not happy about it… it was obvious (the physical changes),” she added.
McNabb said the transgender player was someone she competed against previously. The difference, she said, was when the player hit puberty.
“It wasn’t a big deal until like this year because he didn’t hit puberty until when boys usually hit puberty. Once that happened, however, McNabb said the player got a lot taller, stronger, and was hitting and injuring “everyone.”
At that point, it was a matter of time before someone would seriously get injured.
In one case, McNabb said county politics played a role when one player was hit, but on their arm, and wanted to sweep the incident under the rug.
“Yeah, I mean there’s no doubt. There is someone who said that they got hit on the arm, but they were mad at me getting hurt because other schools missed games.”
As a result of the incident, Cherokee County’s School Board voted to forfeit all future games against Highlands or any team with a transgender athlete on it. The board cited concerns for the safety of the female athletes, but it also meant McNabb’s team wouldn’t be able to compete at state conferences due to the forfeitures.
McNabb in April told the House Judiciary Committee members that she had to quit the rest of the season and is still enduring pain, and other neurological injuries and that she was now also having learning issues.
She says even one person being injured doesn’t just affect them.
“I know it was just one person, but it didn’t just affect me. The whole issue did not just affect me. The administration should be advocating for me and fighting for me, it’s just telling me I’m unimportant because it was just one person,” McNabb said.
“That’s the main reason I’m doing what I’m doing is because this is extremely important; we need to fight for it now so it doesn’t keep becoming a bigger issue. My sister’s going into high school, I don’t want her to have to deal with this at all. It just makes me sick thinking of this happening to her, my younger cousins and all of my teammates,” she added.
McNabb also had strong words for Gov. Roy Cooper, who vetoed the HB 574 in early July.
“I can’t comprehend why we’re even having to have this debate. Allowing biological males to compete against biological females is dangerous. This is an incredibly important bill to me especially because I had to live it,” said McNabb.
“I may be the first to suffer an injury, but if this doesn’t pass, I won’t be the last,” she added.
The North Carolina Values Coalition has voiced its support for the bill as well.
Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald said, “The severe injuries to Payton McNabb caused by the strength of a trans athlete shows bodies play sports, not identities. I look forward to North Carolina joining the other 21 states which have enacted this type of pro-woman legislation for female athletes.”
After initially appearing on the N.C. House calendar on July 12, a slate of veto override votes are scheduled for Wednesday, July 19.