Public Outcry Delays Vote on Minnesota Transgender Athlete Policy

Zoey DiMauro | October 9, 2014 | 10:19am EDT
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Members of the Minnesota State High School League Board postpone a vote to implement a controversial new transgender policy. (Twitter)

( -- Public outcry forced a delay in implementing a new state policy allowing transgender high school students taking sex hormones in Minnesota to play sports, use locker rooms and share hotel rooms with students of their chosen “gender identity.”

The draft of the Minnesota State High School League’s (MSHSL) policy proposal states that male-to-female transgender students can play on girls’ teams if they are currently on testosterone suppressants.

Similarly, female-to-male transgendered students can play on boys’ teams if they are taking testosterone. Transgender students would also be allowed to use “locker, shower and toilet facilities” and be assigned hotel rooms in accordance with their chosen “gender identity.”

Transgender students who request extra privacy, such as a separate shower or changing facility, should be accommodated if possible, the draft also states, "but they should not be required to use separate facilities."

However, the Minnesota Child Protection League (MCPL) ran a full-page ad in Minnesota's largest newspaper warning that high school boys would be allowed to shower in the girls' locker room, and an email campaign led by the Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC) and the .Minnesota Family Council (MFC) mobilized to inform the public about the changes.

On October 2, the 19-member board unanimously decided to postpone a vote on the transgender policy after a contentious two-hour public hearing.

“After receiving what the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) Board revealed to be over 10,000 emails and then listening to public testimony yesterday overwhelmingly opposed to their proposed transgender policy for student athletics, the Board voted today to table the policy for further consideration at their December 4 meeting,” the MFC said in a press release.

The MCC organized the emailing campaign to stop implementation of the policy, noting that it prioritizes the privacy of transgender students by providing them special accommodations while disregarding the privacy rights of those who may feel uncomfortable changing or showering with a student who is biologically the opposite sex.

The group also cited worries that allowing male-to-female students to play on a girls’ team would be an unfair advantage, and said that the new policy would ultimately be harmful to teens because it “relies upon a contested view of gender identity confusion that could do students struggling with their gender more harm than good.”

The policy also does not provide a religious exemption for individual students or parochial schools, which the MCC says is contrary to state law. In addition, they say that forcing schools to build gender-neutral bathrooms or hold sensitivity training is an unfunded mandate.

“We firmly believe that all students should be permitted to play high school athletics within the realm of the school’s eligibility requirements, and this means that student athletes play within the bounds of physical realities—not ‘internal senses’—for the sake of all students involved,” MFC CEO John Helmberger said.

But Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, a teachers' union, said that she supports the proposed transgener policy.

“A safe and welcoming environment for our students matters a lot, whether it's in schools or extracurriculars," said Specht, reports. "We represent a lot of coaches, and coaches are really looking for guidance.”

However, MFC spokeswoman Autumn Leva pointed out that the proposed transgender policy contains no “objective standard” for determining which students would qualify, adding that “what we’re hearing from athletic directors is, ‘I don’t want to be in the position to determine a student’s gender’.”

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