WATCH: Minn. Passes Much-Debated Trans Student Athlete Policy
The Minnesota State High School League Thursday approved a list of guidelines for including trans students in school sports, facilities, and activities, despite ongoing right-wing protest, reports Twin Cities TV station KARE.
The decision came three days after the Department of Education clarified its stance under Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972 that schools "generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity" in single-sex activities and spaces.
With the MSHSL's decision, Minnesotan trans students in the nearly 500 public and private high schools that are members of the league will be allowed — once they submit a confidential written request to their school — to participate in single-sex activities and use the restrooms, locker rooms, and showers that accord with their affirmed gender, starting with the 2015-2016 school year. The policy passed nearly unanimously, with 18 voting in favor, one opposed, and one abstention.
Under the new policy, Minnesota Public Radio reports, "A female-to-male transgender student who has started hormone treatment can only play on male teams. One who hasn't can play on either team. A male-to-female student must provided evidence of testosterone suppression therapy. The shower policy requires school districts (when possible) to provide private shower and changing facilities to any student athlete who requests them. It also bars school districts from revealing that a student athlete is a transgender person."
Minnesota, which now joins California, Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, and several other states with trans-inclusive athletics policies, has drawn national attention with discussion this issue. The spotlight has been on the MSHSL due, in large part, to the efforts of the policy's conservative opponents. In particular, the antitrans Minnesota Child Protection League attempted to sway public opinion by paying for two full-page ads in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the state's largest newspaper.
The first ad, which ran in October, drew on the common fear-mongering tactic of misgendering trans women and then implying that their presence in women's locker rooms is a threat to minors by stating, "A male wants to shower beside your 14-year-old daughter. Are YOU OK with that?"
The overwhelming response from both trans advocates and those who oppose them resulted in a torrent of public comments to the MSHSL, including over 10,000 emails, notes KARE. The board delayed voting on the issue for two months before announcing it would discuss the draft policy once more in December.
Days before this meeting, the Minnesota Child Protection League ran a second bigoted ad, deploying a similar misgendering tactic as the first. Apparently attempting to raise concern that cisgender (nontrans) women would "lose" spots on athletics teams (and possibly college scholarships) to trans women, it read "The end of girls' sports? … Are you willing to let that happen?"
Despite this tactic, as well as a Minnesota Family Council petition signed by over 5,000, the MSHSL agreed to adopt the trans-inclusive policy draft after hearing from a full room of emotional parents and community members.
In the wake of the decision, many school administrators and other trans allies in Minnesota's communities have come forward with praise and gratitude.
"We believe that it is our moral responsibility to welcome our students' whole selves into our schools. No child should be required to check a part of themselves at the door in order to gain access to school programming, including participation in student athletics," St. Paul Schools said in a statement reported by KARE.
"I'm so proud of the community that stepped forward to speak about their own experience," concluded state senator Scott Dibble, one of Minnesota's few openly gay lawmakers. "It took a lot of courage. They stepped forward with dignity, they claimed their own voices, they claimed their own power. They came around to stand up for folks who have been denied a voice and the ability to fully participate in all the things our schools, our athletics, have to offer."
Watch the KARE report below.