Come August of next year, high-school students in Minnesota will be permitted to play sports on teams with whatever gender they “identify” with, rather than what their biological gender would dictate, and a leading Christian family group believes this is a recipe for disaster.
On Thursday, the Minnesota State High School League, or MSHSL, officially adopted new policies that would require all public, private and even some religious high schools to accommodate transgender students, effective Aug. 1, 2015. The decision came in the face of fierce opposition that delayed the decision by months.
“They passed a policy that will allow students who identify as transgender to play on teams opposite their birth sex, which will almost certainly lead to them also accessing the locker rooms, bathrooms, even hotel rooms of the opposite biological sex. This is very problematic for many students, parents and even schools around the state,” said Autumn Leva, director of policy and communications at the Minnesota Family Council.
The Minnesota Family Council is one of the leading public voices against this change in policy by the MSHSL. Officials say there will be criteria to determine which students can qualify to play for teams of different biological genders. Leva and her allies offered one of their own prior to Thursday’s vote.
“We brought forward our alternative proposal that is in place in three other states,” she said. “It would simply clarify that for the purpose of high-school athletics, a student’s sex is their birth sex and that they play on teams that match their birth sex, with the exception that already exists in state law that allows girls to try out for boys’ teams (such as football or wrestling). Even though this is a valid and completely legal policy that’s in place in other states, the High School League gave no attention to that proposal.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Autumn Leva:
She said the clear public opinion on the matter didn’t sway the league, either.
“Even though we brought forward a petition with close to 7,000 Minnesotans who prefer our solution to what the league is doing. Even public and private schools have signed on, saying this is what they wanted and the league didn’t even give it any air time. So it’s really been a pretty one-sided discussion,” Leva said.
Minnesota is the 33rd state to grant some sort of high-school sports accommodation to transgender students. Leva said this wave happened very recently, so it’s too soon to chronicle the impact of the policies from around the country. She contends this is a major focal point of the gay rights agenda. Leva said state high-school athletic associations are under pressure to conform from the the National Federation of State High School Associations, or NFHS, which is heavily influenced by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN.
She points to guidance language from the NFHS that quotes GLSEN as proof that individual state groups like the MSHSL are being forced to fall in line.
A bulletin from NFHS entitled, “Developing Policies for Transgender Students on High School Teams,” and dated Nov. 21, 2014, reads: “Transgender students are those whose gender they were assigned at birth does not match how they identify their gender. A student might have been identified as a boy at birth, but now identifies as a girl, or vice versa. Transgender students often report experiencing harassment and bullying from their classmates, as well as inaction from their teachers or coaches when they report being taunted or physically assaulted (GLSEN, 2011).”
The MSHSL did adopt an exemption for religiously affiliated high schools, but Leva said that provides far less protection for those schools than the league would have Minnesotans believe.
“The league actually narrowed the exemption, so now if a private Christian school is not directly affiliated with a particular denomination or a specific church, they are not protected under this policy,” she said. “So they will have to comply. That’s all of our independent Christian schools.”
Even the schools that make that cut, Leva said, could very easily feel the consequences of noncompliance.
“If a private religious school claims their exemption will they lose some standing in the league? Will they be forced to forfeit certain games? Will they be forced to allow visiting schools on their facilities to allow their students to use facilities of the opposite sex? None of those effects of the exemption were clarified in any way,” she said.
Leva said the practical effects of this policy are both obvious and subtle.
“Again, that will almost certainly lead to (transgender athletes) using the locker rooms of the opposite sex,” she said. “So we’ve got students’ privacy right implicated, putting students of opposite sex in very private settings, changing and using the restroom together. Obviously that’s a huge concern to students and parents.”
Leva added, “We’ve got Title IX implications and discrimination against female athletes, since our state statutes make very clear that we separate female teams for a reason, to ensure that they have an equal and fair opportunity to compete. This policy really flies in the face of that provision.”
There’s also a health and safety component to criticism of this policy. Leva said the physical differences between the genders are undeniable.
“The statutes have always recognized, and federal law as well, that there is inherent physical characteristics that are different between males and females,” she said. “We need to take that into account for the fairness and safety of these girls. So what this new policy will do is say that actually doesn’t matter and that biological boys can now play on girls teams so long as they say that they identify as a girl.”
But what about the precedent that already exists allowing girls to play on boys’ teams in sports like football and wrestling? Is that evidence this is not as big of a deal as Leva and others fear? Leva said the two situations are not comparable.
“It goes beyond just having a girl complete as a girl on the wrestling team or the football team, since there’s not a girls’ football team,” she said. “It goes into saying, ‘This girl is actually a boy and is competing as a boy on the football and wrestling team and should therefore have access to the boys’ locker rooms, the boys’ hotel rooms on away games. The implications of this are very real and very serious.”
With the debate over policy over for the moment, Leva said it’s now families and school leaders who have to make tough decisions.
“It rests in the hands of parents, student athletes and schools to decide what they’re going to do,” she said. “The High School League is a volunteer association, though schools need to be a part of it in order to compete in state athletics. But they have a choice here to whether they’re going to comply with this policy. The league has made it mandatory, but the schools ultimately have a choice. Parents and student athletes also have a choice.”