By James Brooks
Alaska Beacon 

State school board starts process to ban transgender girls from girls sports


Alaska’s state school board has voted almost unanimously to advance a proposed regulation that would bar transgender girls from playing on girls’ high school sports teams in the state.

The vote opens a 30-day public comment period. After that period, the board will consider amending, rejecting or adopting the proposal.

The decision comes amid a nationwide, Republican-led movement to restrict transgender rights. Felix Myers, a non-voting student member of the school board, suggested that the board’s action was part of that movement. Other members of the board rejected that idea, saying they are worried about competitiveness in high school sports and believe transgender girls have an advantage.

Current policy allows the activities association to decide participation on a case-by-case basis, and publicly, only one transgender athlete has competed in girls’ high school sports here at the championship level over the past nine years.

“I’d like to think this is proactive and anticipates things that could be a problem,” said Bob Griffin, a school board member who is part of a conservative and libertarian-leaning think tank.

All board members voted in favor June 8 of advancing the regulation and opening the public comment period – except Lt. Col. James Fowley, the board’s military adviser, who abstained from the vote.

Maggie Cothron, the board’s student member, appeared reluctant to vote in favor of the proposal but ultimately did.

“Transgender students already receive harassment from everyone around them,” she said, suggesting that the problem could grow worse if the resolution is ultimately adopted. “I really hope that whatever happens later on down the road, that it doesn’t turn out the way that I think it might,” she said.

Alaskans who testified by phone had mixed views of the proposal, but those who spoke in person at the school board’s meeting in Soldotna were uniformly in favor.

Current and former members of the Soldotna High School girls wrestling team sat prominently in the audience.

Trinity Donovan, one of the team members who testified, said that when she began wrestling, teams weren’t segregated by gender. She lost almost every match. After she began wrestling in a girls division, she went on to win four straight state titles before graduating this spring.

She said she feels that having transgender girls in the girls division would be like going back to what she experienced.

“If a transgender woman wants to compete in sports, I think they should have their own category, change the men’s category to an open division, or gain support in pride games,” she said.

The United Nations, American Civil Liberties Union and various other organizations have concluded that transgender women are women, but that perspective is rejected by conservative social and religious officials.

The American Medical Association and American Association of Pediatrics accept gender fluidity with policies that say transgender people should receive gender-affirming care.

Monica Whitman, who testified by phone by Eagle River, is the mother of a transgender student. Most parents haven’t met a transgender student, she said, and it’s important to understand that “we’re all going through this experience together, and our top priority is to raise happy, healthy kids just like any other parent.”

She said hearing Thursday’s testimony was “extremely discouraging” and that the state’s proposal raises many unanswered questions.

“Most concerning to me is how the board is going to implement these policies. Trans kids are already playing sports in Alaska; we don’t have issues with trans kids dominating sports,” she said, suggesting that some closeted trans kids are participating.

“And are those kids going to be forced to be outed in order to continue playing sports? Also, how is the state going to determine which sex a student is? Are you going to have access to our child’s private medical records?” she asked.

It isn’t yet clear whether the regulation would require female players to undergo physical exams or provide their birth certificates; enforcement would be left to the Alaska School Activities Association, a nonprofit that regulates high school sports here.

Mara Kimmel, executive director of the Alaska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said her organization believes that the proposed regulation “is an alarming and unconstitutional attempt to politicize scholastic sports” and may violate the equal-protection and privacy clauses of the Alaska Constitution.

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization.


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