I hate going to the bathroom at BSM––the boy’s bathroom is one of the most vile places within a three mile area. But I don’t hate going to the bathroom because the gender on the sign outside doesn’t match who I am, or because I worry that people inside might not see me for who I am.
For some Minnesota students––BSM students included––bathrooms can be a really scary place for the aforementioned reason.
Transgender and gender nonconforming students are faced with a binary––a male/female gender spectrum––defined world every second of everyday. For the majority of students, this is not an issue: this two-sided way of thinking has been ingrained in us from a young age, leading us to accept it without much thought. For some, however, being forced to conform to the gender binary, or not allowing them to identify where they actually belong, causes stress, anxiety, depression, and sometimes, much more.
But this is such a small minority of individuals, so many do not even pause to think about the consequences of an unwelcome environment for trans* (the asterisk denotes the vast spectrum of terms and identities that fall under the trans* umbrella) identified students.
As a Catholic school, we know the importance of breaking down systems of oppression and fighting the marginalization of historically underrepresented groups. No matter how small a group, no community deserves to be subjected to exclusion, harassment, or violence. By not taking a stand for trans* students and their rights, you are condoning trans*phobia.
Earlier this month, the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) voted on a measure to make sports more inclusive for trans* identified students, allowing them to play on the team that they identify with. Unfortunately, strong lobbying from anti-LGBTQ groups dissuaded the board from voting on the new policy, tabling it for the December meeting.
That inaction was unacceptable.
Because the board chose not to act on a policy that would allow trans* identified students to play on the sports team that they identify with, and to access gender neutral changing facilities upon request, hundreds of trans* students will yet again not be able to participate in high school athletics. For trans* students it’s not an option to play on the wrong team, just as it isn’t an option for me, a male identified student, to play on the girls team.
The policy that was not passed outlined guidelines for schools to follow in order to determine eligibility for trans* students and how to properly accommodate these students, which is something that is already in place in 32 other states and the NCAA. Schools need direction on how to properly accommodate trans* students and how to create a welcoming environment for all athletes––this policy is a step in the right direction.
Prior to the vote, the Minnesota Child Protection League, an anti-LGBTQ group based in Mankato, bought a $37,407 ad with the question “A male wants to shower next to your 14-year-old daughter. Are YOU okay with that?” displayed prominently. This misinformation and misunderstanding of both trans* students and the policy was not only influential in the decision of the board to table the policy but also put trans* students, especially trans* athletes, in physical danger due to possible backlash. This was not a freedom of speech issue this was an issue of safety and security.
In 2012, Cece McDonald a transgender woman of color living in Minnesota, was attacked for who she is, and in the first few months of this year, 102 cases of anti-transgender violence, ten percent of which was against transgender youth, was reported. Continued trans*phobia––a problem Minnesota continues to deal with––serves to demonstrate the need for the MSHSL to take a stand for trans* athletes and for their inclusion and safety in our schools and athletics to begin breaking down trans*phobia in our society.
When the MSHSL chose not to vote on the trans* inclusion policy this month, they didn’t just delay the ability for hundreds of trans* students to participate in high school athletics––they also sent the message that trans* equity wasn’t politically advantageous and therefore unnecessary.
For the hundreds of trans* students, it’s not about being politically helpful or hurtful, it’s about being who they are and doing what they love to do––play sports. Being transgender or gender non-conforming is not a choice. Trans* equity is not a choice. Making our schools more inclusive for trans* students and athletes is not a choice.
MSHSL please pass the trans* inclusion policy, because trans* students can’t wait another season.