The inclusion of transgender students on high school athletic teams has become a key issue across the country.
Nationwide, high schools strive to provide opportunities for all young people. Because athletics is an integral part of the extracurricular programs that every high school in the United States offers, schools want to ensure that all students have equal access to participate. It’s even more important when you take into consideration how sports can provide physical and emotional benefits for its athletes.
In Caitlyn Jenner’s 2015 ESPYs speech, she called for transgender youths to be “given the chance to play sports as who they really are.”
The movement to allow transgender athletes to compete on the teams where they feel most comfortable has already been pushed at the state level as many states in the US still don’t have any policies.
The National Federation of State High School Associations reports that 13 states and District of Columbia have enacted laws that protect students from discrimination’s based on their gender identity.
For many years, discrimination has prevented transgender students to fully and safely participate in school sports. The participation of transgender students in sports has often been viewed as disruptive as they are required to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the gender that they were assigned at birth.
This would mean that students who identified as female would still need to use the boys’ locker room and an athlete who identified as male would be required to use the ladies’ bathroom.
However, some states have already adopted policies that will allow a student to participate in a sport based on their affirmed gender identity which also includes additional “gender-related advantages.” Additionally, there are also policies that note that it is illegal to discriminate based on gender identity. However, individual schools still get to determine whether the athlete is eligible to play.
Many, despite these policies, do not agree that transgender students should be allowed to participate in sports based on their gender identity because of the perceived advantage that an athlete may have. For example, a boy who identifies as female still has a higher testosterone level compared to other girls. She may be taller and even stronger which in terms of athletics is clearly an advantage.
This concern isn’t the same, however for transgender girls who want to participate on the boys’ team. But it does raise concerns that if transgender athletes were to participate on the team that they identify with and also use the corresponding locker rooms and bathrooms, does it put transgender boys at risk for harassment from other boys who still view them as female?
Kye Allums, the first openly transgender NCAA Division I athlete, argues that being an athletic transcends gender. “Strength is not a measure of hormones or testosterone. A lot of the strength comes from your heart and what you work for,” he says.
“Sports is about winning. It’s about competing. It’s about respect. It’s about heart. It’s about teamwork. And it’s about playing the came. It’s not about what’s underneath your jersey.”