Vote on transgender athlete policy set for Thursday

MINNEAPOLIS - When the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) opened its doors for public comments Wednesday afternoon on the proposed participation policy for transgender student athletes they were inundated with passionate people on both sides of this issue. But as far as anyone knows only one student athlete has ever had to deal with being transgender on Minnesota High School athletic fields.

"I competed as a female athlete but functionally on my team I was treated as a male student," transgender former Hopkins Track team member Jae Bates said Wednesday in an interview over Skype. Bates is a freshman at a college in Washington.

Bates threw on the girls' track and field team at Hopkins a few years ago.

He was born as a female and told his coaches and the high school league that he was transgender during the summer after his sophomore year. He said he then asked if he could still compete on the girls' track team as he did not plan to medically transition to male until a later time.

Bates said his coaches and the league allowed it and that issues, he said, like the locker room weren't issues at all. Bates said he chose to change in the nurse's office because he felt more comfortable that way.

"I can say I know several of my friends who identify as transgender and we are a lot more afraid of going into public spaces that I'm sure the opposition is of us coming in," Bates said.

The locker room situation is just one that has opponents to this proposed MSHSL policy crying foul, others are how to ensure fair play and also how religious based schools are supposed to comply with a policy that goes against its faith.
One lawyer spoke out because he says the policy protects too few and does not protect too many.

"The policy is unfair to the 99 percent, its implementation will be unfair to the 99 percent and it should be tabled," attorney Jim Ballentine said to the MSHSL board members in the open forum.

But a small showing of transgender persons spoke out as well hoping to be heard as the minority.

"Let's show the other states that Minnesota believes in equality for every student. The transgender community doesn't want to be the exception, we want to be accepted," transgender woman, Claire Kohner said.

The MSHL board will vote on the proposed policy Thursday morning in an open session.


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