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Discussion sought on possible transgender athlete policy

Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Cass County, on Thursday called for public discussion on a draft of a policy that may be considered by the Minnesota State High School League on participation of transgender students in school sports.

League Executive Director David Stead said Thursday that topic is not on the agenda for the league's board of directors meetings scheduled for Sunday and Monday at Ruttger's Bay Lake Conference Center near Deerwood. He said it may be discussed at an Oct. 1 workshop.

"I ... think there's been very little public input," Gazelka said.

A copy of a draft of a potential policy, provided to the Dispatch by Gazelka, stated: "Fundamental fairness, as well as most local, state, and federal rules and regulations, require schools to provide transgender student athletes with equal opportunities to participate in athletics."

The draft policy states it is designed to create a framework for such participation.

The draft policy said a female to male student who has started hormone therapy (ie, testosterone) is only eligible to participate on male teams. A female to male student who has not started hormone therapy may participate on female or male teams if desired.

A male to female student must have had medically documented testosterone suppression therapy in order to participate on female teams. A male to female student who has not started testosterone suppression therapy may only participate on male teams.

The draft policy states transgender student athletes should be able to use the locker room, shower and toilet facilities in accordance with the student's gender identity. When possible, every locker room should have some private enclosed changing areas, showers and toilets for use by any athlete who desires them.

Gazelka said the draft policy raises questions relating to women's rights and religious rights.

The senator said the way he reads the draft ordinance a male to female student who has had testosterone suppression therapy but no anatomical changes could be in a shower with girls.

"I think that is very problematic," Gazelka said.

Gazelka questioned whether parochial schools that participate in league activities might be denied the opportunity to participate if they fail to comply with an adopted policy.

The Minnesota State High School League is a voluntary nonprofit association of public and private schools. It neither solicits nor receives any state funding, according to its website.

Gazelka said while the league doesn't seek legislative approval of its policies, the Legislature can overrule them by passing specific laws. He said he sees the need for more public debate and comment on this issue. Public disclosure, he said, is how policy pitfalls are often avoided.

"It feels like they're trying to ram this through," Gazelka said.

Gazelka also contended a male to female student might have an unfair advantage if they were physically larger than the females.

He said he was afraid this draft policy represented another "one size fits all" policy.

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
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