Nebraska School Activities Association upholds transgender equality

A red state protecting transgender rights on at least one front

A vote was held early this morning by the representative assembly of the Nebraska School Activities Association. The subject? Whether or not to uphold a 2012 policy on transgender athletes.

Back in December of 2012, a policy was passed by the NSAA that allowed students to play on team which matched their gender identity. The NSAA Executive Director at the time, Rhonda Blanford-Green, proposed the policy to proactively address future issues students may encounter. She was not, at the time, aware of students who had made or would be making requests to play on teams opposite the gender they were assigned at birth. But, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star, she wanted to prevent arbitrary decisions that could affect students in these situations while also putting a policy in place before a conference on transgender athletes.

The policy was at risk today due to several member schools proposing a policy that restricted students to participating only in teams matching the gender listed on their birth certificate. Apart from the fear-mongering over bathrooms and changing facilities — a common theme in anti-transgender laws — was language in the proposal claiming to protect the same students having their identity denied. Here’s one of the listed pros of the policy, found in the agenda for this morning’s meeting:

It avoids supporting or encouraging psychological or medical interventions, the long-term effects of which are largely unknown, for students with gender dysphoria, while still allowing these students to participate in NSAA activities in accordance with the sex indicated on their birth certificate at the time of birth

Apparently there were enough people in the representative assembly who saw through the faux concern expressed in this proposal. But that may also have to do with other pros listed; one cites Georgia and North Carolina’s similar policies, another claims the proposal would support free speech for religious schools, and the worst doubles down on pretending science doesn’t understand gender dysphoria:

It would avoid the creation of legal liability for the Association in the future, if the NSAA were to adopt a participation policy for students with gender dysphoria based on current but scientifically unproven psychological or medical treatments for gender dysphoria in adolescents that may later prove to be inappropriate or harmful

Official minutes of the meeting haven’t become available at the time of this writing, so we don’t have the exact vote totals. Channel 8 Eyewitness News confirms the 2012 policy has been upheld with a close split in the vote.

Regardless, this is a victory for the transgender community of Nebraska. The policy isn’t perfect, of course; a student can only play on a team that doesn’t match the gender assigned at birth once hormonal and psychiatric experts have been consulted along with friends and family confirming the student has expressed the identity associated with the team they want to play on. A student’s parent must reach out to the school to start the process, and the NSAA only involves itself when a school denies a student’s request.

There are obvious problems with this policy. Someone can be an expert in hormones or psychology while holding a personal bigotry against transgender individuals, and friends and family do not always exist as a support network for transgender individuals. I have no doubt that several communities in Nebraska exist where this policy will never be respected and students will suffer.

It is, however, a step in the right direction. And I’m proud of the NSAA for giving my state a positive reputation in something.


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