Legislation that would bar biological males from competing against women in New Hampshire school sports drew passionate testimony from supporters and opponents during a hearing Tuesday. It marked the latest effort to tackle a controversial issue that barely registered in the polls a decade ago.

State Sen. Kevin Avard’s (R-Nashua) proposal would require “school sports teams to be expressly designated as male, female, or coed, and prohibits biologically male students from participating in female designated sports or entering female locker rooms.”

The legislation drew heavy criticism from transgender activists as well as the American Federation of Teachers-New Hampshire.

“Who is going to check?” asked AFT-NH President Debrah Howes. “We don’t keep birth certificates on file. How are we confirming someone’s biological sex at birth?”

Three of the bill’s 12 cosponsors serve on the Senate Education Committee, the same panel that oversaw Tuesday’s public hearing. Sen. Timothy Lang (R-Sanbornton), a cosponsor and committee member, did not hesitate to pose questions for the bill’s opponents.

“You talked about fairness,” Lang said to Howes. “How is it fair to place a biological female who is at a physical disadvantage against a biological male?”

Howes, who at one point in her testimony talked about “the values we want to instill in students — fairness,” puzzlingly denied ever mentioning the word “fairness.”

“I didn’t talk about fairness. I talked about including students,” Howes added.

“You talked about safety and fairness in your testimony, and lastly, I’m just going to ask – at what level in a transition from a biological female to a trans male would they qualify for the protections?” Lang asked. “Is it just merely expressions, where they say, ‘I feel like a female, so I’m going to play a female?’”

Howes responded that Lang’s question was meant “for a medical doctor or a psychologist — I’m a teacher.”

The exchange marked one of several contentious moments on Tuesday. Earlier in the hearing, Chairman Ruth Ward (R-Stoddard) — another cosponsor — asked another opponent of the bill whether a high school-aged male who turned female “would be stronger, faster than girls on the team?”

“I think that would depend a lot on individual characteristics,” answered Jonah Sutton-Morse, a Canterbury resident who earlier talked about his experience competing on his high school swim team. “I know there are some trans girls who have puberty blockers and don’t go through puberty. I know that there are some cis(gender) girls who have conditions where their bodies produce more testosterone than average.

“If there was a real concern about specific people who’ve gone through male puberty that presented danger and unfairness, there is probably a more tailored way to right something that addresses that. That’s not what this bill is, and there’s no consideration for something like that.”

Ward then asked whether an “evaluation on the individual” would solve the conundrum.

“I’m not an expert,” Sutton-Morse said. “I don’t know the consequences.”

Nancy Biederman, a New Boston woman who testified in favor of the legislation, said she played doubles badminton in high school and won a state title in Connecticut in 1987.

Biederman did not mince words when expressing her opinion.

“I will say this, and I will say this proudly. Trans girls are not women,” Biederman said.” I don’t care what you wear, I don’t care what drug you take, I don’t care what surgery you take. You are not a woman. Same thing with trans men. You are not a man.

“I hear all of this talk about trans rights. What about biological women’s and girls’ rights? What about their mental health when a biological male is in their locker room, in their bathroom, and taking their spot on a team?”

The controversy over transgender athletes reached a fever pitch nationally when Lia Thomas, a transgender female who was born a male, won an NCAA Division 1 women’s national swimming championship. Last week, Thomas sued World Aquatics, the governing body for swimming competitions that the International Olympic Committee recognizes. Thomas is looking to overturn World Aquatics’ rule restricting transgender women from competing unless their transition from male to female occurred before age 12.

Polls show a majority of Americans are against allowing transgender women to compete in women’s sports. At least 21 states have laws barring transgender women from competing against biological women.

New Hampshire lawmakers, meanwhile, have thus far declined to adopt similar proposals. At the beginning of this month, the House passed a bill banning genital reassignment surgery for anyone under the age of 18. The House also voted against legislation allowing individuals to obtain new birth certificates following a gender transition and voted in favor of a proposal allowing public schools to regulate individuals based on sex in relation to bathrooms and locker rooms.

Biederman was the only individual who testified in favor of the bill other than Avard.

Avard said his legislation is the result of numerous constituent requests.

“People on both sides of the issue are very concerned about the protection of young ladies in their sports and protecting them from biological males that are stronger and faster,” Avard said. “This would set parameters so we can all work in harmony when it comes to sports in our schools.”