This week, the Minnesota State High School League is expected to vote on a proposal that would allow transgender student athletes to compete on the team that matches their gender identity. The policy has already been under consideration for several months, but league officials will hold one more workshop to discuss it Wednesday afternoon in advance of Thursday’s expected vote.
Conservatives have successfully turned the proposed change into a “controversial” issue through vocal opposition at both the state and national level. On the ground, the so-called Minnesota Child Protection League (MNCPL) has been the primary force trying to keep the League from passing the policy. MNCPL is headed up by Barb Anderson, who also leads the Parents Action League, which opposed an LGBT-inclusive bullying policy in suicide-riddled Anoka-Hennepin School District and has since been identified as an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
This week, MNCPL ran a full-page ad in the Star Tribune warning of the impending “End of girls’ sports” and suggesting, “Your 14-year-old daughter just lost her position on an all-girl team to a male… and now she may have to shower with him.” It follows a similar MNCPL ad that ran in papers in September, asking, “A male wants to shower beside your 14-year-old daughter. Are YOU ok with that?”
The Federalist’s Stella Morabito piled on this week by calling the policy “social engineering,” rejecting all social science about the validity of transgender identities, and claiming that the policy would be “totally anti-Title IX.” The Heritage Institute also highlighted MNCPL’s efforts this week, reinforcing the group’s claim that the policy would require that students “shower with each other, dress with each other, and share hotel accommodations.”
But there’s nothing groundbreaking about Minnesota’s proposed policy.
At least 13 states and the District of Columbia already have laws protecting students from discrimination on the basis of gender identity, including in athletics. Others allow individual school districts to make the same determination, which schools across the country are increasingly doing.
In addition, the Department of Education issued guidance just this week clarifying that transgender students are protected by Title IX in single-sex extracurricular activities, debunking Morabito’s argument otherwise. In all classes or extracurricular activities where schools seek to segregate students by sex, they “must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.”
The NCAA already has a transgender-inclusive policy for all college athletics as well. Trans men must receive a medical exception to receive testosterone (which is otherwise a banned substance) and trans women must have completed one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment, but otherwise they are eligible to play on teams that match their gender identities. That’s because “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.”
Pat Griffin, a national leader on LGBT issues in athletics, explains, “It is important for policy-makers to understand that transgender girls (who were assigned a male gender at birth) are not boys. Their consistent and affirmed gender identity as girls is as deep-seated as the gender identity of non-transgender girls.” Because most policies, including the one being considered in Minnesota, have a procedure for confirming that a student consistently identifies by their gender identity in everyday life, Griffin says this “eliminates the unlikely situation where a boy pretends to be a girl to play on a girls team.”
The proposed policy also specifies, “When possible, every locker room should have some private, enclosed changing areas, showers, and toilets for use by any athlete who desires them.” As Helen Carroll, sports project director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, explained to MPR News, “A transgender girl is a girl. And they are very private, they are very private people. They want to have privacy areas in the locker room, they don’t want to shower with other students.”
Despite the fear-mongering from anti-LGBT conservatives, there is nothing controversial or problematic about the policy proposal before the Minnesota State High School League. Passing it will do nothing but ensure that transgender students have the same opportunities to engage with sports and activities at school as their classmates.