Transgender Athletes in High School – “It’s Complicated”

As many of you know, we are partnering with LaDainian Tomlinson to teach character and leadership in an athletic environment. One of the tenets of the program will be ethical dilemmas related to sports. So, I went to an athletic director’s conference in Michigan to learn about the ethical dilemmas they are confronting in sports. The first, last and only dilemma we discussed was the issue of questioning or transgender athletes.

What was fascinating to me was that 4 of the 5 athletic directors from small town Michigan were dealing with transgender athletes at their school. Wow! I thought this was a fringe issue that would surface once in a great while. Turns out that after Bruce Jennner’s announcement in 2015 that he was identifying as a female and changing his name to Caitlin has had a significant impact on the landscape of America and on high school sports.

In response to these issues at the local level, individual states are creating public policy on this issue. Needless to say, this is a complicated issue. We have a lot to learn and we have many issues to consider.

After speaking with these athletic directors and researching this issue, here are some of the complications that need to be solved.

The Essential Question: Should individuals who are questioning their gender be allowed to play on a sports team that they self-identify with or should they play on a team that is corresponding to their anatomical parts?

Equal Opportunity: While playing high school sports is a privilege and not a right, everyone should be granted the same opportunity to play high school sports. I don’t feel our society should be able to discriminate against someone who is “questioning” his/her gender.  Whatever the outcome, we need to be fair to all involved. We need to make the best accommodations possible, considering all of the options.

Locker Rooms: One of the main challenges is the locker room. Let’s say that a person who is anatomically a boy begins to self-identify as a girl. Now, she wants to run track and join the girls team. The policy in Michigan says that students should be able to change in the locker room that they most comfortably identify with on that given day. That means that the self-identified girl who has male parts will be allowed to change in the girl’s locker room.

So, what do we do when girls in the girl’s locker room feels uncomfortable undressing in front of someone with a penis? As a parent of four girls, I would struggle with this scenario. The athletic director I spoke with said he tried to solve this very issue by providing a separate dressing room to change in, but his district was sued because the parents of the transgender child felt that was discriminatory and made their child feel ostracized.

Fairness: When a girl switches genders and wants to compete as a girl, there is no competitive advantage gained. However, when a boy self-identifies as a girl and joins the girls swim/track/basketball/tennis team, that child has a competitive advantage. Anyone who doesn’t believe me just needs to watch the Olympics. Heck, go to any local school on a Friday night in February and watch the women’s varsity basketball game and then the men’s varsity basketball game. There really is no debate here. A boy who was born as a boy, but self-identifies as a girl has an advantage to girls who were born as girls. Currently 37 states allow self-identified girls to play on girl’s teams. We will someday see a state champion in the girls 100 meter dash who runs with a penis. Yes, we are accommodating the transgender child, but what about the girl who finishes second? Is it fair for girls to compete against boys who self-identify as girls? No sure.

Is This a Phase: Some will think I am insensitive for bringing this up, but it is worth discussing. Bruce, now Caitlin Jenner was a huge story in 2015.  The term transgender has been around for decades. It became a part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Alliance on college campuses in the early 1990’s. This year, the term Questioning is being added to this alliance, giving voice to those individuals who are questioning their gender.  This is good. I know there are people who struggle with this issue. I wonder if we follow these teenagers for 5, 10 and 50 years, how many will still be questioning their gender as a grown up. How many will have had a sex change, how many will still self-identify as a different gender and how many will look back at this as a teenage phase. 30 years ago, I knew all kinds of high school students who felt out of place, depressed, confused… and expressed their individuality in a variety of ways. I wonder if this is a new way for these students to express themselves in their teenage years.

Your Turn: I know this is a tough issue to discuss, but this is a real issue. Without being rude, tell us how you would handle this issue and provide your reasoning. Don’t just look at it through your lens, look at it through multiple lenses.

Comments 53

  1. i don’t think someone should be discriminated based on their gender but i don’t think it is a good idea for a girl born as a boy to be on a girls team. Naturally guys are stronger than girls, it’s not something that anyone can help which is why i think it would cause harm to the other girls playing who are not and never will be as strong as the transgender girl.

    1. I agrre with U and I think it should be requeired for the trans girl to have hormone therapy giving everyone a fair playing field.

      1. Something that nobody brought up would be for girls’ sports, what happens when there are girls who are looking to gain college scholarships based on their performance, but they cannot compete with the transgender girls. We are not talking about grade school sports “everyone gets a trophy sports”. Men’s and women’s teams are separate for the very reason that strength and size is vastly different. A biological woman should not be denied a win, a record, or a scholarship due to transgenders on her team. Biological males run faster, fight harder, ski faster, throw further and harder, etc. Perhaps competitive sports should be defined by biology and intramural sports by however a person identifies. My personal opinion, also, is that girls should not be subjected to a biological male watching them undress and shower, and vice versa. I cannot even imagine a teenager having to deal with this, much less an adult. I certainly do not want a transgender female watching me undress and shower at the gym. Nor do I want to watch her. Nobody brought up the possibility of the individual who isn’t serious about gender identity, but has ulterior motives.

      2. Easy to resolve with comom sense . We should create a Trans category even with it allows them to compete with girls, so you will have a Girl, a Trans and Men championship. Much like we have in car racing where different classes compete in the same race but in different championship and prizes. About locker room, I’m sorry but my opinion is it should be separated for a long series of motives, can not see any good camming out of that mix.

    2. There are many studies on the competitive advantage that transgender girls have in sports, they have found no evidence that they have a significant advantage. Some transgender athletes don’t even win the competitions they compete in.

  2. This is irrational, girls and boys should not switch genders . A reason, is that they were created like that by god and should be switching body parts just because they feel they should be guy or a girl.

  3. This is irrational, girls and boys should not switch genders . A reason, is that they were created like that by god and should be switching body parts just because they feel they should be guy or a girl. It’s not right switching genders that’s just a waste of money and time. At the end you are going to want to switch back and

  4. This is irrational, girls and boys should not switch genders . A reason, is that they were created like that by god and should be switching body parts just because they feel they should be guy or a girl. It’s not right switching genders that’s just a waste of money and time. At the end you are going to want to switch back.

  5. I think that they should be able to be on the same sports teams. I dont think they should allow a transgender boy into a locker room with girls or visversa. I think everyone should have a privilege to do any sport they want. I feel no matter what sex you are you could play on any team.

  6. I think some transgenders can play some sports with the sex they identify themselves with because i don’t think it ‘s a problem, but in some sports i think guys who are transgender shouldn’t be with a girls team because guys are faster than girls.

  7. I think for this situation that they should not be able to play on the different teams because it wouldn’t be fair for both of the genders because a girl may be more flexible and a boy can have more muscle and stamina it wouldn’t be fair for the types of sports like track or football.

  8. Well i believe that the transgender should be on their originated team because they may get hurt of hurt someone on accident. In my opinion concerning the locker room or showers would be, if they are should about their choices and their preferances there should be no problem but the people in that locker room or showers should be asked if its okay with them.

  9. I believe boys who identify themselfs as a girl should have the right to play on women teams. But one condition is they should weigh a certain amount and have a certain strengh because men are stronger than woman because they have testrosterone which they cant get rid of.

  10. Great insight, In order to express their chosen gender, transgender be it boy or girl i believe they should be left where they want to belong.

  11. I support transgender. I don’t get why it is so bad people can be who they want to be. Its not like the are changing their sex just to play a sport and dominate. They have to go through many obstacles to become a different gender. If I were to change my gender I would want people to support me and give me words of engorgement, not bringing them down with what they believe in.

  12. I support the transgender because they are who they want to be, and if you wanted to make a change in your life people would support you. I honestly don’t even know why they are making a big deal out of this.

    1. Here’s the thing: I support transgender PEOPLE, but it’s just athletics that we’re talking about. Boys are just scientifically better than girls at most sports (in general. of course it varies by individual).

  13. I don’t see why this is a big deal. People should be able to have the same opportunities no matter what they think of themselves. I don’t really care much about this.

  14. This is dumb. If someone feels like they are comfortable in the opposite sex of what they are, then they should allow them to do what they would like freely. I think that they should be able to go to the bathroom where they would like. People need to get over themselves, and eventually they will. If a higher power makes a rule that they can do what they want, then they will end up having to deal with it because the only thing they’ll be able to do is complain. They can make no valid argument after the change is made.

  15. I really don’t know what I would think if this happened at my school, but i wouldn’t think about it too much. I would just accept them as a new team member.

  16. I’m going to start with the picture at the top. The woman holding the bible quote obviously didn’t read close enough to know that god loves everyone. If you think about it America was founded on the promise of equality… well that went well. Honestly people can not choose when they’re trans. When you are born a chemical in your brain is released to tell you what gender you are, and sometimes it screws up. These students are already getting bullied by people they don’t even know and don’t need to fight just so they can play a sport. They should play on the team that they want. We need to get our heads out of the sand, and deal with the fact that these people are in our lives. They’re not going to go away. Let them have equal rights. Let them play on the team they want to play on.

  17. Honestly, I’m quite neutral on this topic. I can see both the pros and the cons in allowing transgender athletes to play in their preferred gender group. Some people may think it isn’t fair, but if you think about it you’ll quickly realize that it counters itself. Just like how some schools have athletes that are 6’6″ Juniors, some will have these transgender players. So, if all these transgender athletes are allowed to play in their preferred gender group, some schools would have that advantage and others wouldn’t, just like how some schools have those 6’6″ athletic monsters and others don’t. You can’t really fake being transgender either, too many hoops to jump through.

    To be blunt, there are bigger issues at hand than this.

  18. I think that people need to accept transgenders and not make it such a big deal. They should be treated equally and not be discriminated against

  19. They should have the choice to do as they please, but I don’t think they should be able to play on the opposite team. My reasoning for that is, because they are going to get bullied a lot. They are already getting bullied, because they are trans, why let it get worse? There will always be that one group of people who are going to bully them for who they are and what they do. It wouldn’t affect me anything, but I don’t believe this is a great idea.

  20. Transgender kids are being who they want to be. It’s what they feel, and haven’t our parents told us to be who we want to be? I can tolerate and accept a transgender individual. I bet that if you met a transgender without knowing it, it wouldn’t bother you in the least.

    1. Post
      Author

      Sydney, thanks for the comments. Good discussion. I would like to point out that this post was not about tolerating and accepting transgender individuals. It was about whether or not transgender athletes should compete on boys/girls teams and how we should handle locker room issues. Many good people are not “bothered” by a transgender person, but feel uncomfortable with competing against or sharing a locker room with a person with the opposite genitalia. Does this make sense?

  21. I dont believe it is a good idea honestly because if a male converts over to female and is a pretty sizable boy he has an advantage over the girls witch is not fair not only that the locker room should be off limits because i would feel comfortable with it nor would other people im not saying im against it but males are males and females are females and have specific rooms to change because of body parts it would just cause to many problems. Im fine with transgender but people would take advantage of it for sports and scholar ships on the male side and females should not be in the males locker room and males should be aloud in females locker rooms. its fine just the way it is dont change it and make more issues that have to be dealt with.

  22. Girls should be allowed to play on a boys team, and boys should be able to play on a girls team. If I was up against a girl that was born as a boy, I would want it. I would just want to strive for the better and do my best. It isn’t unfair, kids can have a gender change and when they do, it official. There should be no discrimination. Because if the people that were witnessing it, did, they would have the same problem with discriminating.

  23. I see it from both sides. It is unfair to discriminate a student based on the fact that they are transgender but for example it is also unfair to other girls who have to compete against a male who is transgender in a sport because male and female bodies are different so they have advantages that the rest don’t have.

  24. There really should not be anything wrong with transgender teens playing the sport they were meant to play on. If you think about it this way, the teachers shouldn’t care whether there a boy or girl. It should matter that they are having fun and feeling safe.

  25. there is nothing wrong with transgender people playing sports because they are who they say they are and no one should have a say and why is there a policy anyway? People have feelings and they should just deal with it.

    1. I agree. People act like it is such a huge deal that these people dont feel like the sex they were born. It is there personally problem and not other peoples. They are no less a boy or a girl then those who were originally born that sex

  26. I can see how many issues and frustration can arise on both sides. But in order to prosper as a society we must be accepting of whichever gender an individual indentifeies with. The majority of locker rooms have options to get changed privately and trnasgender students can choose to changed privately but should not be forced to. High school is hard enough alone, no student would “pretend” to be trans-gender unless they truly indentify with it. Not allowing transgender people in locker rooms is not going to prevent the sexual abuse issues present across the world. In order for society to move forward we must accept everyone as humans with equal rights despite gender indentity among ethnicity, religion and race. All in all, across the board, students should be allowed to compete in whichever gender they indentify with.

    1. Post
      Author

      Very well said, Hayden. The issue still stands though, is it “fair” that a boy who identifies as a girl can run track on the girls team and beat all the other girls and win a state championship?

    2. No. Many locker rooms still don’t provide the opportunity to change in private… and teenage girls should not be forced to see a naked male body during gymn class – it’s hard enough at that age to undress in front of other girls and hear/put up with the comparisons, jokes and mean comments.

  27. I think people are all for others feeling comfortable in the skin they’re in, but the problem with the trans community is they want everyone to compromise to meet their needs. Trans in secondary school shower stalls and locker rooms and competing against real females in competitive sports are taking away the rights from bio-females. We ( bio-females)don’t have a say, and it’s not fair. You can “feel/identify” as a woman but you’re not. By trying to force bio-females to accept trans women will only lead to resentment. Next, female competitive sports will be dominated by intersex and transgendered athletes, there will be no bio-females able to compete ( which means no college scholarships to play sports). It’s not fair or right.

  28. In my personal opinion I would not support transgender policy. I wouldn’t support it because there’s too many things to consider and a large amount of change that multiple schools and leagues would have to undergo. There will be boys that will self-identify themselves as females to gain an advantage. The two genders are not equal as far as physical capabilities to be honest, and it would be unfair for the dishonest people to have an advantage over the girls. The locker room situation is ridiculous but there’s a simple solution, they should only be able to change in the locker room of the gender they were born as.

  29. Everyone should be accepted however they want to be. Everyone is their own person and no one should be judged for who they want to be.

  30. There is no issue with people self-identifying as other genders than what they were assigned at birth, but there are issues surrounding the fairness of sports. It is obvious that people born as boys have advantages over those born as girls and many people see this as unfair that boys could compete against girls. As this issue progresses we must remember to value the dignity of each person and treat them as a human being with respect.

  31. I think that is amazing that more and more men and women feel comfortable expressing how they feel sexually. It really is amazing how far we have come since the 1900’s when it comes to topics like this. But this article brings up a good point that men who identify as women will have an advantage when it comes to athletics. To keep it fair for now I think that men who are biologically men should compete in their sex and vice versa for women. But as this problem continues we need to consider how people will feel with each decision that is made. It is important to not single out certain people.

  32. “Male” or “Female” two genders, many bodies, it shouldn’t be about a “Trans-Male” joining the team and winning, making other girls feel disrespected or treated unfairly because of such, instead, it should be about how we the people of america treat those who self-affiliate themselves as another gender. If a Trans wants to join a club, i say go ahead, if they want to be in class that they feel that they would be comfortable in, go ahead, but if it’s something that includes treating that person with disrespect,…no.

    And so i quote “And so god made us in his image, and we saw in him as what he saw in us.”

    Equality is a given, not a privilege.

  33. Being trans, I can understand where the students are coming from. Yet, I feel as if it’s selfish for another trans student to stay somewhere although it makes other students uncomfortable. I just don’t understand why using a separate locker room is such a big deal, I would be perfectly fine with it, but that’s just me. I just wish that people–both trans and cis people–could see the larger picture and come up with some sort of compromise.

  34. I’m so extremely torn on this issue, because if we go ahead and allow trans people to play on the sport team that identifies with their gender, then whats stopping people from making all teams co-ed? Most likely a high school varsity team would be composed of all males.

  35. Heck, they should make it like the boy scouts and girls scouts are now. There should be all-inclusive sports, which will let in boys and girls and anyone else who wants to play, but it will still be competitive. And there should be a category for biological females who feel like going against biological males is unfair.

  36. In the end biology is biology and feeling are just feelings. If a biological male joins a beauty pageant, she might just win the sympathy vote. However, if a biological male joins the Women’s basketball team…can’t wait for that video to go viral. Lol

  37. Has anyone heard of trans boys wanting to compete against boys born male (after puberty of course)? I have only heard of trans girls competing with girls born female. And these trans girls win. I wonder why?

  38. This ridiculous, if you have a penis your a guy, if you have a vagina your a girl, guys who say they are girls and want to be on a girls team is just making it unfair for everyone else. trust me I’ve played against a guy in tennis who said they were a girl and he kicked my ass because of his body and the way its made different. guys belong on guys teams and girls belong on girls teams. thats why they made a girls team so that it would be fair to go up against your own skill level.

  39. I didn’t see 1 thing about science and why trans gender folks feel the way that they do, i firmly believe that some people born and their genetics should be looked at by their doctors to see if they have more female, or male dna or anything else associated with why they would want to identify to their opposite gender. I think some folks born male that they feel like females and vice versa, There is a reason for that. We can’t just brush aside trans gender people just because someone says it’s wrong. That is B.S. These bleeding heart liberals are out of control and destroying rights that were always our rights. Everyone needs to start voting, find out which politicians are screwing our kids up and vote them out.

  40. “We will someday see a state champion in the girls 100 meter dash who runs with a penis.”

    Says it all right there. This isn’t about what is, this is about the worst possible outcome that doesn’t currently exist.

    1. Post
      Author

      Jim, this is happening. Transgendered females at the high school level are winning state championships in track, swimming, & weight lifting. The three biggest cases right now are the two transgendered females that won and finished second in all three sprint events at the Connecticut State Championships, the Massachusetts lacrosse team that won states with two transgendered females (and they scored all three goals) and the weightlifter who will be in the Olympics this summer. This is not conjecture. This is happening. The question is, is this fair? I can see both sides of this issue, but at the end of the day, I say this is not fair to females.

  41. The “Solution” is right in front of us. Literally.
    We COULD have a rule – actually, like it has been for CENTURIES – that anyone who has a Penis between their legs plays on Boys’/Mens’ teams, and that anyone who has a Vagina between their legs plays on Womens’/Girls’ teams. Now there IS NO confusion.
    There IS a NATURAL reason why – for centuries – Males and Females have been considered as separate sexes. Its because genetically, physically, and mentally, they ARE very different.
    For instance, NO two genetically, naturally born men, nor two genetically naturally born women, can create offspring by themselves, to replace themselves.
    It is PATENTLY unfair to expect genetic girls/women and genetic boys/men to compete against each other in physical competition! In the classroom? Sure. But not in “contact sports” like football, soccer, basketball, boxing, etc. Not in beauty contests. Not in weightlifting or MANY other sports.

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