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LETTER: Language, sensitivity matter on transgender issues

THIEF RIVER FALLS — I am writing in response to the Forum News Service story, “Transgender policies being drawn regionally” (Page D1, April 24).

I am not transgender, but as a gay man, I consider myself an ally of the transgender community.

Kudos to South Dakota and Minnesota for being proactive in addressing the issue of including transgender youth in high school athletics, and kudos to the Herald and Forum News Service for covering the story.

But there are some issues with the story. For example, “A transgender extracurricular policy, for instance, could mean that a boy could play girls basketball or girls volleyball, if self-identifying as a girl,” the story reports.

It is not about a boy playing girls sports. It is about a transgender girl playing girls sports.

This stereotype often is based on a fear that transgender girls will have an unfair advantage. The 2009 report, “On the team: Equal opportunity for transgender student athletes” from two groups, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and It Takes A Team!, makes the case in detail.

But one key point is that “the assumption that all male-bodied people are taller, stronger and more highly skilled in a sport than all female-bodied people is not accurate. This assumption is especially inaccurate when applied to youth who are still developing physically and who therefore display a significantly broader range of variation in size, strength and skill than older youth and adults.”

Another idea that causes me great concern is, “the proposed policy calls for a gender identification committee of experts that will review the student’s transgender status. The committee’s ruling would be final throughout the student’s high school career.”

This is a totally inappropriate suggestion, one that would be unworkable and cruel and would violate the student’s civil rights, to say the least. Would the athletics associations propose a policy including a racial or religious identification committee? I think not.

For those interested in educating themselves on transgender issues, I’d suggest The National Center for Transgender Equality ( or PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).

PFLAG is forming a chapter in Thief River Falls to serve northwestern Minnesota. The organizers can be contacted at

David Stocum