Greta Stacy '15 Contributing Writer
The Minnesota State High School League passed a recommendation on Dec. 4 regarding “Transgender Eligibility Appeal Procedure for a Male to Female Student.” The League opens its suggestions by stating that “[i]n accordance with applicable state and federal laws, rules and regulations, the Minnesota State High School League allows participation for all students regardless of their gender identity or expression in an environment free from discrimination with an equal opportunity for participation in athletics and fine arts.” The policy is not without precedent. In 2010, the NCAA passed a similar document with recommendations for schools and coaches.
The recommendations in the case of NCAA and MSHSL contain nothing surprising. They basically acknowledge that trans athletes exist, and then give schools some tips for how to accommodate them. The main concern the recommendations seek to address is “competitive equality.” Transphobia in sports manifests itself most commonly in the refusal to gender individuals correctly, and it often partners with misogyny to do so. It’s not fair to have women compete against men because men are so much bigger and stronger and better at sports, the logic goes. Since they’re just inherently better than women, these men will take away opportunities from women. And men will pretend to be women so they can win more by competing against these weak, pathetic creatures.
Of course, not everyone took well to having these myths debunked. This fall, the Star Tribune has run two full-page ads that have garnered national attention. The Minnesota Child Protection League paid for the ads, which were blatantly transphobic. The first read: “A male wants to shower beside your 14-year-old daughter. Are YOU okay with that?” And the second read: “The end of girls’ sports? Her dreams of a scholarship shattered, your 14-year-old-daughter just lost her position on an all-girl team to a male — and now she may have to shower with him. Are you willing to let that happen?”
Minnesota Child Protection League talks in detail about this on its website. “The draft policy of the MSHSL is dangerous for all students. It assumes the premise that gender is a matter of choice, not biology. That premise is wrong and absurd. Parents have every right, every obligation, to speak up without being vilified. They have the responsibility to oppose this radical new dogma being imposed upon them and their children.”
Minnesotans have pushed back, many calling for the paper to apologize and vowing to cancel subscriptions. People have taken to social media to ask, “A transphobe wants to run a full-page advertisement in your newspaper. Are YOU okay with that?” It’s a thought-provoking question. Clearly the information in the ad was hateful and misleading, but does that necessarily mean it doesn’t belong in a newspaper? The ads weren’t the only discussion of the MSHSL policy in the paper.
The Star Tribune also ran — much later and closer to the MSHSL vote — op-ed pieces for and against the recommendations. The “con” piece is a study in how to not respect the gender identity of another person. (My personal favorite: “The clause would grant boys a right to play as girls virtually on demand.”) But it’s an article in a newspaper. I disagree with the points made, I think the article as a whole is vile, but it belongs in the newspaper.
The ads belong in the newspaper, too. Is it gross that the Star Tribune made money from running the ads? Yes, definitely. But while they’re technically ads, I don’t think they qualify as commercial and therefore unprotected speech. The ads don’t propose an economic transaction. They never ask for money or offer services. Minnesota Child Protection League is a non-profit, so just sponsoring the ad doesn’t even promote their business, since they’re not one.
I wish I could offer some kind of legal argument for keeping those ads out of the paper, but I don’t think I can. The only thing I can offer to counter the speech of the Minnesota Child Protection League is more speech. Unsubscribing to the newspaper will not help the situation. It would be better to send a letter to the editor and let them print that. I’m not arguing for “balance,” which would imply that there is more than one side to this issue, but the only way to convince the Minnesota Child Protection League that their very name is ironic is to show them that Minnesotans (and our friends throughout the country) won’t stand for their fear mongering.