An Iron Ranger's view: Minnesota State High School League watered down policy on transgender students
Next week, on Dec. 4, the Minnesota State High School League plans to vote on a policy that addresses transgender students' participation in high school sports based upon their gender identity, not their birth sex.
Next week, on Dec. 4, the Minnesota State High School League plans to vote on a policy that addresses transgender students’ participation in high school sports based upon their gender identity, not their birth sex.
Transgender is a term for people born with a typical male or female anatomy but who feel as if they’ve been born into the wrong body. Transgender people may seek hormone therapy, gender-reassignment surgery or other procedures so their bodies align with their gender identity.
Gender identity is a term for a person whose private inner sense identifies him or her as a male or female. This identification may not match the sex assigned at birth.
The MSHSL has written at least two drafts describing its policy regarding transgender students’ participation in high school sports.
The first draft stated, “Fundamental fairness, as well as most local, state and federal rules and regulations, requires schools to provide transgender students with equal opportunities to participate in athletics.”
The first draft also stated, “The school administrator or athletic director may review information about gender identity related advantages for the student if participation is approved (information can include the size and skill of the student).”
With regard to bathrooms, showers and locker rooms for transgender students, the first policy stated, “Ensure reasonable and appropriate restroom and locker room accessibility for students.”
Then, on Oct. 1, the MSHSL held a hearing at which its transgender participation policy was presented to the public. More than 100 people and some Christian groups were there, and they were very vocally against the policy.
As a result, four days later, the Child Protection League Action of Mankato, Minn., placed a full-page, color ad in the Star Tribune of Minneapolis concerning the MSHSL’s transgender participation policy. The ad stated, in all-capital letters, “A male wants to shower beside your 14-year-old daughter. Are you OK with that?”
In response to the Christian groups; the angry parents; and the bigoted, alarmist Child Protection League Action group, the MSHSL wrote a second draft of its policy.
The second draft is completely watered down. It turns over to the high schools the responsibility of determining a student’s eligibility to participate in MSHSL-sanctioned activities.
The stated mission of the MSHSL is to “provide leadership and support for (the 500) member schools.” One of the stated beliefs of the MSHSL is that “students should have an equal opportunity to participate in all activities offered by their school.” Another stated belief of the MSHSL is that “participation in school-sponsored activities must be inclusive, not exclusive.”
Are transgender students not a part of the high school also? Are they not a part of the 200,000 high school students who participate in athletics and fine-arts competitions statewide each year? Did the MSHSL provide the necessary leadership to ensure transgender students have an equal opportunity to participate? Did the MSHSL provide the necessary leadership to ensure transgender students will be included, and not excluded, from high school activities?
The MSHSL did not.
When the league wrote its second draft regarding the participation of transgender students in high school activities, it threw its stated mission and its stated beliefs right out the window.
Because of the its lack of leadership, the pusillanimous (cowardly) MSHSL set the stage for the possibility there could be 500 different transgender student athletic participation policies in the state of Minnesota, a different one at every school. The issues that the first draft policy made clear now have to be clarified by lawsuits and court cases - all at the emotional expense of transgender students.
Joseph Legueri of Gilbert is a writer, retired educator, lifelong Iron Range resident and regular contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page.