Groups and elected leaders are rallying around a policy that would bring inclusion for transgender students in athletics.
On Thursday, the Minnesota State High School League, a voluntary association which oversees the state’s athletics policies, will consider a policy that spells out how schools should create inclusion in sports for transgender students. The policy has come under fire from conservative religious groups that are opposed to LGBT rights including the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Minnesota Family Council, and the Minnesota Child Protection League. The latter took out a full-page as in the Star Tribune which insinuated that transgender students were predators.
By Wednesday morning, however, the policy had picked up the support of a number of organizations and elected leaders. Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges condemned the ad and encouraged people to contact that MSHSL to support the proposed policy.
Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson and council member Elizabeth Glidden, also members of the Minneapolis Transgender Issues Work Group, penned a letter to the MSHSL in support of the policy. “We fully support your efforts… to create a safe, supportive and competitive environment for student athletes,” the letter stated.
Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, also sent in a letter of support:
Participating in high school athletics should be a privilege enjoyed by all high school athletes—regardless of gender identity. Research has long shown that participating in sports improves not only the physical health of students, but also self-esteem and emotional well-being. Given the already challenging social and academic environment of Minnesota high schools, giving transgender student athletes the fair chance to compete will not only benefit them personally, but it also allows schools to conform with already existing state and federal regulations to provide students the opportunity to participate in sports programs
In addition, the state’s union for educators, Education Minnesota, has been rallying its members to support the proposed policy.
Education Minnesota president Denise Specht wrote in a letter to the MSHSL:
I am writing to encourage you to adopt commonsense policies for transgender students who wish to participate in athletics overseen by the Minnesota State High School League… Please support these guidelines for transgender students, not only because all children should be treated fairly but also because transgender students often feel isolated and alone. We, as educators, should respond by inviting them to benefit from all the academic and character development activities our schools have to offer.
According to the Pioneer Press, the MSHSL has been receiving hundreds of emails and voicemails on the issue, but the trend has been toward supporting the policy. Howard Voigt, a MSHSL spokesman, told the paper:
“Initially, there was a significant amount of comments received both via voicemail and email, text messages, urging the board to reject the proposal. But (Tuesday) I think the shift has been to the other side. There’s significant support from teachers and other organizations that deal with kids in the schools.”
Update: The Star Tribune editorial board has come out in support of the MSHSL policy:
In a wise and proactive move to conform with federal law, Minnesota is likely to join 32 other states and the NCAA in adopting guidelines for participation of transgender students in high school sports.
The run-up to today’s scheduled vote by the board of the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) generated significant controversy — including strong opposition from groups that would ignore the reality that transgender kids have a rightful place in public schools and in prep sports.
Contrary to a misleading campaign by opponents, MSHSL board members will vote on sensible guidelines that promote a safe, nondiscriminatory environment for transgender athletes in the organization’s nearly 500 member schools. They should approve the proposal.
Minnesota United FC, Minnesota’s pro soccer club, came out in support of the policy. Club president Nick Rogers wrote:
This past Sunday, a hateful ad appeared in the sports section of the Star Tribune. This full-page ad urged readers to oppose a policy, currently under consideration by the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), regarding the participation of transgendered students in high school athletics.
As the leader of a professional sports organization in this community, I would like to offer an apology to every transgender person who was hurt by this advertisement. I can only imagine the pain that those people must have felt upon seeing their very existence demonized in the pages of the most widely read newspaper in the state. It is deplorable and should not have happened…
The policy under consideration by the MSHSL will ensure that small-minded people won’t be able to arbitrarily exclude transgender children from that quintessential American experience: being on a high school sports team. I commend the MSHSL for considering this policy and—for the good of those athletes who will be affected and for the good of our society as a whole—I strongly urge them to adopt it this week.