Athletes should be able to play where they feel most comfortable

By Trevor Squire/[email protected]
News Editor

The Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), the governing body and organizer of high school sports in Minnesota, became the 33rd state to approve a formal transgender policy Dec. 4, that will allow trans athletes to play for the gender-specific team that they themselves identify as.

For an athlete to play in the opposite sex’s sport, they need to submit an appeal to the MSHSL including signed parental and medical statements regarding the athlete’s sexual identity. When the independent hearing officer reviews the given materials they also have the ability to consult with experts in gender identity and health care professions.

A group called the Minnesota Child Protection League bought two full-page ads in the Star Tribune over the course of the prolonged decision. Both ads use a combination of scare tactics towards female prep sports where it hits parents’ concern the most, their child’s privacy and their pockets.

The first ad shows a shower wall with text reading “A male wants to shower by your 14-year-old daughter. Are you ok with that.” If a transgender athlete is accepted and put onto the opposite gender’s team there are measures that can be taken to make sure all athletes are comfortable.

Angel Hillstrom, a PSEO student at MCTC, played goalie for the Robbinsdale Cooper’s boys hockey team for two years seeking more of a challenge. Hillstrom was given her own stall in the varsity locker room; the team established a routine of the boys getting ready while Hillstrom got dressed in a separate locker room before joining the team in the varsity locker room. On the road, she got dressed in the bathroom and never had issues with other rinks’ accommodations. Privacy is a non-issue if athletes are honest with how they feel and let coaches know if they are uncomfortable with dressing room arrangements.

Though not a transgender athlete, Hillstrom’s experience preceding the policy approval is an example of the possible actions that can be taken to make athletes comfortable.

“I was treated differently for a little while because I was a girl, but once I proved I was just as good I was accepted,” Hillstrom said.

The second ad raises concern that male athletes in a female sport would have an unfair advantage and soak up all the scholarship opportunities. According to the National Collegiate Scouting Association, only one percent of athletes get a full ride to a Division I school; if the hope is your child’s athletic ability will get them a free or discounted education there are other extracurriculars and scholarships that suffice. A common trend today is to specialize and become great at one single skill rather than becoming a well-rounded individual. Competition should not overshadow the lessons learned from organized sports, but often parents are the ones who drain the fun by seeing athletics as an investment, not a hobby.

The ad uses a stock image of a female softball player which is also printed for the cover of Going, Going, Gone: Susie’s Story, a book written by Barbara L. Clanton. Clanton writes young adult and children’s fiction, primarily focusing on young lesbian girls excelling in sports. For an organization promoting an anti-LGBT message, sharing an image from Clanton’s book series is an ironic statement itself.

The decision may go against feminists agendas (a separate arena for female athletes to gain exposure and play at the next level), but the new policy addresses a larger concern.

In a study done by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, of the 6,450 participants, 41 percent had attempted suicide. By never challenging established gender roles, we are only reinforcing bullying and genderism. To shun these athletes and force them to play on a team they don’t feel a sense of belonging to is taking away a new learning opportunity for students, staff, and teammates.