Two of Nebraska’s most prominent social conservative groups, Family First of Nebraska and the Nebraska Family Council, have combined to become the Nebraska Family Alliance. The new group’s first target is transgender students, encouraging supporters to contact the Nebraska School Activities Association and urge them not to solidify a policy that would allow transgender students to participate equally in school athletics.
Here’s why the Nebraska Family Alliance says it opposes this inclusive policy:
- It creates the potential of allowing some students unfair advantages, particularly in the case of a biologically male student playing on a girls’ athletic team.
- It is unclear how this would affect gender-separated locker rooms and restrooms. If transgendered males or females may use the opposite sex’s facilities, it raises safety concerns.
- A transgender policy could create an undo [sic] financial burden on local school districts to accommodate transgender students in regard to athletic facilities, such as restrooms and locker rooms.
These three misguided notions about transgender students can be easily rebutted.
First, the claim of unfair advantages relies on a number of assumptions that paint an incomplete picture. A national report on transgender equality in scholastic athletics points out that this argument only applies to trans women (those born male), assumes that trans women are not “real” women, and leaves no room for trans women who have used hormone blockers to avoid the impact pubescent testosterone might have on their bodies. Further, research has found no evidence to suggest trans women actually have a competitive advantage:
It is also important to know that any athletic advantages a transgender girl or woman arguably may have as a result of her prior testosterone levels dissipate after about one year of estrogen therapy. According to medical experts on this issue, the assumption that a transgender girl or woman competing on a women’s team would have a competitive advantage outside the range of performance and competitive advantage or disadvantage that already exists among female athletes is not supported by evidence. As one survey of the existing research concludes, “the data available does not appear to suggest that transitioned athletes would compete at an advantage or disadvantage as compared with physically born men and women.”
There is nothing to substantiate the claim that allowing transgender people access to the locker room they identify with will have any implication on “safety.” This relies on assumptions that trans people are inherently deviant, or that gender identity is a switch someone can flip on any given day. Like those fighting California’s protections for transgender student, the Nebraska Family Alliance provide no answers as to which — if any — facilities transgender people should be able to use.
Perhaps conservatives believe that trans people should have their own separate — and thus ostracizing — facilities. Only that could explain the third claim of a financial burden for schools. All that needs to happen is for schools to learn how to respect and defend students’ gender identities and whatever facilities they already have will suffice. At worst, schools might accommodate a trans student by installing a privacy stall or curtain, a negligible cost that can be administered in a given afternoon by a maintenance person.
Athletics provide many important benefits to students, and nobody’s gender identity should disqualify her or him from participating. It is unclear what any of these campaigns will accomplish aside from continued discrimination and stigma against transgender young people.