In the latest attempt to shut trans people out of public spaces, the Mat-Su School Board is considering an illegal and unconstitutional policy to prohibit transgender girls from joining girls’ athletics teams. This disturbing effort follows a national trend sparked in 2020, when lawmakers zeroed in on sports and filled a flurry of bills attempting to keep trans people from participating in athletics.
Trans youth participate in sports for the same reasons other young people do: to challenge themselves, improve fitness, and be part of a team. But this policy would send a message to vulnerable transgender youth that they are not free to do so.
The proposal, BP 6145, was recommended by three members of the board (including its president), and would determine a student’s eligibility to play on a girls’ team by "biological sex” designated at birth. It would force students to furnish a birth certificate, which is not necessary for school admission and may not be available to all students, in order to play on girls’ sports teams. It would also prohibit use of birth certificates that have been updated with amended gender markers.
In cases where “biological sex” — which is complex and does not break down in a neat male/female binary – can’t be determined, we are concerned the district would next use its authority to subject students to invasive tests. It would also encourage gender policing of girls, leading to calls for those who appear “too masculine” or “too muscular” to be subject to additional scrutiny. Finally, it may force transgender students to involuntarily reveal their transgender status when they have not chosen to do so, robbing them of vital agency to decide when, where, and how to be out.
Though the ACLU of Alaska is committed to fighting to uphold trans rights, it will take more than judicial and legislative action. It will require rooting out the inaccurate and harmful beliefs underlying these policies.
The participation of trans athletes does not hurts cis women. While many who oppose the inclusion of trans athletes erroneously claim that allowing trans athletes to compete will harm cisgender women, this divide and conquer tactic gets it exactly wrong and enforces a stereotype that women are weak. Excluding women who are trans hurts all women. It invites gender policing, and it does not address long-established gender parity issues in sports. In Idaho, the ACLU represents two young women, one trans and one cis, both of whom are hurt by the law that was passed targeting trans athletes. Including trans athletes promotes values of non-discrimination and inclusion among all student athletes.
Trans athletes do not have an unfair advantage in sports. Just like cisgender athletes, trans athletes vary in athletic ability. "A person’s genetic make-up and internal and external reproductive anatomy are not useful indicators of athletic performance,” according to Dr. Joshua D. Safer.
Trans students find it difficult to stay in school. The U.S. Trans Survey showed 22 percent of trans women who were perceived as trans in school were harassed so badly they had to leave school because of it. Another 10 percent were kicked out of school.
Trans girls are girls. There is no one way for a woman’s body to be. Women, including women who are transgender, intersex, or disabled, have a range of different physical characteristics. Dr. Safer says, “ A person’s sex is made up of multiple biological characteristics and they may not all align as typically male or female in a given person." Further, many people who are not trans can have hormones levels outside of the range considered typical of a cis person of their assigned sex.
Trans students belong on the same teams as other students. Transgender athletes have for years competed on teams at NCAA member colleges and universities consistent with their gender identity like all other student-athletes with no disruption to women’s collegiate sports. And excluding trans people from any space or activity is harmful, particularly for trans youth. A trans high school student, for example, may experience detrimental effects to their physical and emotional wellbeing when they are pushed out of affirming spaces and communities.
For these reasons, and many more, please help us defend the rights of trans athletes attending school in the Mat-Su Borough School District. It’s up to us to make sure the district gives EVERYONE equal opportunities and safe spaces to grow in.