Tuesday, July 26, 2022

The local and the global: Anti-trans policies are all connected

The impetus for this post was a radio segment I heard on my local NPR station about a school district in Lancaster, PA. The school board of the Hempfield School District created a policy requiring that students participate in interscholastic sports based on their sex assigned at birth. As horrible as this legislation is in intent and effect, it is nothing new--sadly. It is interesting though that the school district took this action after Pennsylvania's Democratic governor vetoed anti-trans legislation that had passed the PA house and senate and specifically said, in doing so, "leave trans kids alone."

Nevertheless, Hempfield folks have chosen not to listen to Governor Wolf and passed the policy by a 6-2 margin, unmoved by tearful pleadings from at least one parent of a trans child. It continues to baffle and sadden me that people go into education/education policy and have zero empathy for the children who need it most. 

That is point 1: utter lack of empathy and failing to uphold basic education philosophies. This leads to...

Point 2: the goal of interscholastic sports is education through participation. Sports are already fraught because...America and capitalism and patriarchy. To be fair sports were never not fraught. But can we at least try to make sports for little kids something worthwhile and not a place where severe mental and physical harm occurs? 

Point 3: As noted in the article linked above, this policy likely violates Title IX (the new regulations protecting trans students are likely to be challenged in court so everything remains frighteningly unknown). But I was struck by those who opposed the policy relying heavily on the "we're going to be sued" argument. Do the right thing because it is the right thing--morally. Yes, laws are part of our system of ethics and considering the law is part of moral reasoning. But if we rely only on the law to guide our moral reasoning, we will not be serving the most vulnerable. 

Outside of the above points, I continue to find the claims of "girls are losing opportunities" because of trans inclusion both wrong and ironic. Girls lack opportunities because school districts have already failed to comply with Title IX's mandate for equitable opportunities. Also--this is not college sports; if there are super strict roster numbers then we are back to point 2--failure to live up to the philosophy of interscholastic sports. Additionally--and this is the irony--the more money a district spends on fighting a legal battle to keep a few kids from participating in sports in a healthier way, the less money there will be to spend on those sports and other educational necessities. That's a pretty difficult cost-benefit decision to justify. 

The same week all this is happening in PA, World Athletics (formerly IAAF), the governing body of track and field, hinted that it would follow the lead of Fina--the international governing body of swimming--and ban trans women who have gone through male puberty regardless of testosterone levels. This is not a Title IX issue and there seems little to be done about Fina's rule or any similar ones by other governing bodies. The Court of Arbitration of Sport, based on how they handled the Caster Semenya/DSD athletes case, does not seem to be a viable option for stopping these heinous policies. 

So why the comparison? Once again we have the straw dog argument: protect women's sports/protect women. The paternalism from organizations that have ENABLED the abuse of women athletes is astounding. Trans women are not a threat. Predatory coaches are a threat. Abusive coaching is a threat. Self-harm from a toxic sports culture is a threat. Where is the perspective?

Also, a huge thumbs down to The Guardian, a publication I usually trust, for including this paragraph: 

Under World Athletics rules transgender women can compete in the female category provided they suppress their testosterone to below 5nmol/L for 12 months. That rule was also followed by Fina until Sunday, when it changed its regulations after scientific evidence showed trans women retain an advantage even after reducing testosterone.

It is irresponsible to off-handedly mention "scientific evidence" and not talk about what that evidence is and how (un)reliable it is. If the entire argument anti-trans people are making is "scientific," there has to be a discussion of this evidence. 

Conclusion: everyone needs to do better. I am currently at a loss over how or if this can happen.