Should a boy play on a girls sports team? Should a girl play with the boys? Those are the questions the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) is answering as it writes guidelines for transgender kids in sports.
“I think the difficult part has been getting everyone together to understand what the issues are,” said MSHSL Executive Director Dave Stead, “Because everyone comes from a different perspective.”
So many, in fact, that the league got 10,000 emails about the issue this fall, and Wednesday heard more opinions in advance of a vote scheduled for Thursday. The vote was postponed from early October when the MSHSL said it needed to gather more information.
“If a student knows the policy is there they will know they belong,” said State Rep. Barb Yarusso, whose son is transgender. “They will know they are welcome.”
Board members are working to answer key questions: How do kids identify as male or female? Would religious schools be exempt from accepting transgender athletes? And should a policy be mandatory statewide—or decided by each Minnesota school?
“I have great trepidation seeing this played out at the local school district level,” said MSHSL Board Member Deb Pauly.
As the debate continues in meetings, it’s also in the media. Critics of the policy bought full page ads in several Minnesota newspapers, saying letting transgender kids play sports is unsafe and unfair. Those opponents and others both for and against will likely weigh in again tomorrow when the league votes.
“It’s not a perfect policy but it’s a good first step,” said Allison Yocum, of Transforming Minnesota Families. “And I think it’ll pass tomorrow and I think that’s a victory for Minnesota.”
A study by the National Center for Lesbian Rights says only about five transgender students in the entire country ask each year to be on a team of the opposite sex.
The MSHSL league agrees it’s a very rare situation, but says it wants to make sure sports are fair and accessible to everyone.