OutFront Minnesota supports the efforts of the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) to assure appropriate inclusion of transgender students in sports programs. The league’s proposal would assure that all students can participate regardless of their gender identity or expression. We think this is a good step forward as it provides guidance for school administrators and helps make schools equitable and safe for every student.
Today the MSHSL is expected to vote on a policy to designate a set of criteria under which student athletes will be able to compete on a level playing field in a safe, competitive and friendly environment, free of discrimination. 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.
Opponents spreading fear
In the past few days, through a series of misleading emails and a derogatory, full-page ad that appeared in the Star Tribune, the Child Protection League and other opponents of equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people have been hard at work trying to spread fear about the MSHSL proposal pertaining to transgender student athletes.
The Child Protection League paid $37,407.50 for the ad, but we don’t know who they are. We’re curious. Who is funding them? Their two websites don’t include the names of any individuals and only includes a post-office-box address. (If you want to know who is on the board and staff of OutFront Minnesota, you’ll find a complete listing on our website. You can also stop by our office in Sabathani Community Center.)
Every day, OutFront works with LGBTQ youth. They are thinking about how to balance their studies with extracurricular activities; dreaming about their future and making plans for the weekend. Many LGBTQ youth also live in fear of being bullied for who they are.
Increasingly, children are coming out at younger ages. Youth who identify as transgender know that the sex they were assigned at birth is different from who they know they are on the inside. Some transgender youth may not tell anyone this for years or even decades. But just like all of us, transgender youth learn how to navigate in life – and if they are supported and accepted by their parents, family, schools and places of worship, we all benefit because transgender children grow up to be contributing members of society.
A surge in inquiries from parents
OutFront Minnesota has been working for equality for LGBTQ Minnesotans of all ages since 1987. Just this year, we have seen a surge in inquiries from parents of transgender children, seeking our help in securing appropriate identification documents for their children, or in accessing the health care their children need, or in responding to difficulties their children have experienced in school or other youth-focused activities. They want their kids to be safe, valued and affirmed. They want them to fit in and be treated like any other student.
Against this backdrop, the Minnesota State High School League has proposed its policy, which creates a mechanism for students, their parents, their doctors and school officials to make thoughtful, case-by-case determinations on how students will be included in sports teams. The league will leave it up to schools to decide such questions as locker-room assignments and similar accommodations.
Still much work to be done
The conduct of the opposition is harmful and shows us how much work still needs to be done to make Minnesota a place where all people can simply be who they are with out fear of harassment, discrimination or violence.
By affirming students’ identities when making team assignments, the league’s proposed policy sends a powerful message to those kids and to their parents: that they belong, and that they don’t have to pretend to be someone else in order to be included. And of all the lessons transgender students might learn in school, that may be the one that proves to be life-long, and quite possibly life-saving.
Monica Meyer is the executive director and Roxanne Anderson is the associate director of trans organizing of OutFront Minnesota. Its mission is “to create a state where LGBTQ people are free to be who they are, love who they love, and live without fear of violence, harassment or discrimination.” OutFront Minnesota advised the Minnesota State High School League on its proposed policy.
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