Call Ed: Settling for exclusion

In Missouri, there is no existing policy that prohibits schools from penalizing transgender students who have not physically transitioned to the gender with which the student identifies. With high school associations across the country requiring transgender students to undergo physical transitions to compete, 71 percent (66/92) of TKC staff believes that this should not be an acceptable policy in high school athletics.

November 7, 2018

art by Sarah Nash

Sarah Nash

art by Sarah Nash

While playing on George Washington University’s women’s basketball team, Kye Allums became the first transgender female National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) athlete to compete Division I basketball in 2010. Three years later, Fallon Fox, American Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter, became the first transgender female to compete in the MMA. Despite collegiate and professional athletes such as Allums and Fox coming out as transgender, an individual who identifies as a gender different than their assigned sex, states have yet to implement policies allowing transgender individuals to participate on a high school sports team without physically transitioning.

In order to “physically transition,” a transgender individual must undergo procedures such as hormone replacement therapy, hair growth or removal surgery or additional surgeries to help further align with their true gender. Policies that require transgender students to physically transition fail to recognize that not all students are ready or able to receive medical treatment. It is a financial decision. A personal decision. A decision that should not be dictated by a set of guidelines by athletic associations, but by the individual themselves.

KHS follows Missouri State High School Athletic Association (MSHAA) policies to determine a transgender student’s eligibility to participate on high school sports teams. Missouri, along with 18 other states, requires officials to individually review a transgender student’s case in order to allow them on high school sports teams. In collegiate athletics such as NCAA, a transgender athlete must physically transition to be eligible to compete. According to the NCAA, a transgender male or female must receive medical exception for treatment with testosterone or testosterone suppression for diagnosed Gender Identity Disorder or dysphoria in order to physically transition.

Collegiate sports teams require transgender players to physically transition to maintain fairness for both men and women teams. However, this policy should not be enforced in order for high school athletes to compete. High school athletic associations should not have the power to forbid transgender students from participating on a sports team or influence their choice to alter their body. Transgender athletes should not have to make a life-altering decision in order to fulfill high school athletic requirements, especially at the age of 14.

Physically transitioning can also be financially detrimental on transgender students. According to World Professional Organization for Transgender Health, the average total cost for a physical transition can be expensive as $20,000 over a two-year period. On average, this includes about $1,000 for therapy, $1,500 for hormone replacement, $500 for doctors visits and lab tests both during and after the procedure, plus additional costs depending on insurance coverage and the individual case. Although the total cost for hormone replacement therapy can vary, a transgender student should not be excluded from joining an athletic due to the expense of physically transitioning. High schools should be finding ways to include their students rather than settling for exclusion.

Not only can transgender individuals face financial hardships, but also extreme mental and emotional challenges. According to the American Counseling Association, 41 percent of transgender individuals attempt suicide compared to less than 2 percent of the general population. Research done by the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Study showed 57 percent of transgender individuals have experienced rejection by their families and 53 percent have been verbally harassed in public settings. By alienating transgender students from participating on sports teams, high schools are potentially damaging the student’s mental and emotional health. Any student athlete should be able to pursue their interests while having fun. Prohibiting transgender students from joining a team based on a physical transition only increases the mental and emotional strain the student may already endure.

High school is a place where athletes should be able to explore and pursue their passions without policies and organizations interfering. By not requiring transgender athletes to physically transition, high schools are not only creating sports teams that accept all students, but are easing the financial and mental weight a transgender student may carry on a day-to-day basis. Regardless if a transgender student has physically transitioned, high schools should create athletic programs where students compete for the pride of their school, not for the pride of who they are.

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