"Controversial" MSHSL Draft Transgender Policy Really Shouldn't Be

An overflow crowd attended yesterday's hearing.

An overflow crowd attended yesterday's hearing.

Yesterday, the Minnesota State High School League held a hearing on the draft "Participation of Transgender Students" policy board members are set to vote on as soon as today.

As we wrote about in the context of an anti-transgender ad the Star Tribune ran last Sunday, the draft policy is controversial. It really shouldn't be, however, if you accept that being transgender is a fact of life that shouldn't result in a person being treated as a second-class citizen.

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Unfortunately, many people don't. With regard to yesterday's hearing, Fox 9 reports that "while there was a strong showing of support for the most recent version of the policy, there was an even stronger showing from parents and community members who are against it."

One concern seems to be along the lines of the worry raised by the Minnesota Child Protection League in its notorious ad -- "A male wants to shower besides your 14-year-old daughter. Are YOU ok with that?"

The fatal flaw with that reasoning, of course, is that the "male" the MCPL refers to is a transgender female -- or, simply put, a female. So, ironically, forcing a person of that sort to play on the boys team really does result in a situation where a male has to shower next to females.

Another concern is about competitive fairness. To grossly simplify, if LeBron James decided tomorrow he was a woman, wouldn't it be unfair to let him compete in the WNBA?

The MSHSL's draft policy tries to account for both of those worries with numerous levels of oversight. Under the terms of the policy, if a student athlete that was assigned the male gender at birth wants to compete as a female, her legal guardians are required to provide the following information to a school administrator or athletic director:

The administrator, with concerns about "fundamental fairness" in mind, then makes an "initial determination" about "the gender of the student" as far as school athletics are concerned.

If that decision isn't to the liking of the athlete and his or her guardians, they may appeal it, first to the student's school. If they lose there as well, they can appeal again to the Executive Director of the MSHSL, and ultimately to the MSHSL Board of Directors, which will consult with an Independent Hearing Officer before a final decision is made.

To prevent a LeBron-playing-in-the-WNBA situation, it might be ideal for the MSHSL's policy to include language about an appeals process for schools competing against transgender athletes, if they think another school's determination about an athlete's gender identity has put them at a competitive disadvantage. But hopefully administrators are responsible enough not to abuse their power by exploiting the MSHSL's policy toward that end.

Monica Meyer, executive director of OutFront Minnesota, was at yesterday's hearing and tells us she thinks the draft policy "is a good step in the right direction."

(For more, click to page two.)

"You have the high school league stating really explicitly that they want to make sure that athletics are inclusive and provide a safe and supportive environment to participate," she says. "It's really important for transgender students to know that the high school league is making sure there's not discrimination."

Asked why she thinks Minnesota has been slow to implement a transgender policy for school athletics -- 32 states, including a number regarded as more culturally conservative, already have policies on the books -- Meyer says she's not totally sure, but opined that the anti-bullying bill signed into law last year might've "prompted a conversation by the high school league looking at the issue... there wasn't anything in place."

"We're just hearing from a lot more parents of young trans people in general trying to make sure that their kids have a really good school experience, really have all the protections they need to be safe and supported," she adds. "We've been noticing a huge uptick in the young transgender people we've been working with in general."

The aforementioned Fox 9 report about yesterday's hearing contains this moving passage of testimony offered up by a young transgender male who wants to play basketball:
"I love basketball. Do not take basketball away from me. I'm not going to play on the female team. Just acknowledge that, please... Just acknowledge me as a human being; acknowledge me as a team player; acknowledge me as a student," Zean Porter pleaded. "I'm here. This is hurtful. This is painful. Hard. This is so hard."
It seems entirely reasonable for the MSHSL to implement a policy so that situations like Porter's can be dealt with in a fair way, doesn't it? But regrettably, groups like the Minnesota Child Protection League apparently view discussion about the proposed transgender policy as little more than an opportunity rehash discredited arguments about how gays and transgender people are living deviant lifestyles.

To read the draft policy for yourself, click to page three.


MSHSL Trans Policy

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