The state of Minnesota finds itself on the eve of a significant decision in transgender rights, with the Minnesota High School League (MSHSL), the state’s sanctioning body for all high school sports, set to vote on a measure that would allow students to compete as members of the gender with which they identify, not that they are born into.
Essentially, the decision would mean that a female athlete who identifies as a male would then be allowed to compete on the boy’s basketball team or, conceivably, vice versa. Any allowances for transgender students compete as members of their non-birth sex would be contingent on the athletes in question proving that they had reached a threshold of self-identification, as evidenced by hormone therapy, surgery or consent via parental guardian. All confirmations would have to be provided in the form of a medical documentation.
On Wednesday, the MSHSL held an open forum to discuss the proposal, with more than 25 members of the public registering to have their voices heard on the topic. Played out to a lobbying backdrop that included a controversial full-page advertisement in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Tuesday morning, the session included heated and impassioned pleas, most made in opposition to the proposal, which was drafted in conjunction with OutFront Minnesota, a gay and transgender rights advocacy group based in Minneapolis.
In a fashion befitting the Minnesota of Garrison Keillor’s imagination, all speakers on Tuesday were faultlessly polite, yet all offered views that were, in essence, completely inflexible to the other’s view. In a unique twist, both sides invoked Biblical verse, though the speakers who work with a faith-based organization spoke against the proposal.
The tweets below were recorded by John Millea, the MSHSL’s media specialist. They’re representative of the impassioned views expressed at Tuesday’s forum. Fittingly for the polite nature of the speakers, only the final tweet you see below drew audible complaints from the crowd at large.
In addition to the tweets above, you can hear some of the testimony in the video from Twin Cities Gannett partner KARE directly below.
While Minnesota’s ruling has drawn national attention, it’s hardly the first state to deal with transgender equality on the playing fields. According to MSHSL officials, 32 other state high school associations and the NCAA all have policies that deal in some form with transgender athletes. Of those 32, four actively protect the rights of transgender students to compete as the gender they identify with. Of those four, Washington and Connecticut both allow students to compete in sports via self-identified gender regardless of the birth on their birth certificate, while Colorado and Illinois allow students to compete as their self-identified gender in only specific activities, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Meanwhile, the NCAA’s policy was forged in the crucible of controversy following one George Washington women’s basketball player’s insistence to identify as a man while still playing as part of the Colonials team and remaining on scholarship. That athlete, Kye Allums, made her plight public in a story first published on the website outsports.com and went on to become a public speaker in support of transgender rights and awareness.
You can learn more about Allums’ story in the USA Today video directly below.
It remains to be seen whether Minnesota will become the latest state to make it easier for athletes like Allums to come out and self-identify earlier, while still competing in their sport of choice. No matter what the choice on Tuesday, the eyes of America’s prep sports community will be eagerly watching the MSHSL boardroom on Thursday morning.