Debate rages on about transgender athletes in high school sports

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — The Michigan State Capitol was the stage for a rather raucous debate on Tuesday about how — and against whom — transgender high school athletes should compete in Michigan.

A bill — Senate bill 218 — was proposed earlier this year that would make it required that transgender athletes compete on the teams with the gender they were assigned at birth. That is, unless the sport is not gender specific; in that instance, the athlete may compete on the available team.

Those who support this potential legislation say it’s about making sure the playing field remains even — often citing Title IX as the starting point.

“It’s unfair and in some cases unsafe,” said Senator Lana Theis about transgender females competing against cisgender females. “Testosterone creates larger bodies, stronger bones.. the exact same workout between a male and female has a greater result on the male.”

Dr. Gabriel Higerd testified on Tuesday citing this year’s statistics in Michigan track as reason to support the bill.

“In Michigan in the current outdoor season, there were 523 boys who jumped farther than the best girl in the long jump,” Higerd said. “If these athletes were transgender of the same rate as in the general population …you could expect transgender girls to win 81 to 98 percent of the time.”

That assertion was met with opposition, with some lawmakers saying that this bill is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist in the first place.

“Do you know how many student athletes there are in Michigan?,” asked Sen. Dayna Polehanki. “It’s 180,000.

“Do you know over the past five years how many transgender kids have applied to play sports in Michigan? The answer is 10.”

Those who argued against the bill say this is about more than trophies, it’s about making this in an already slighted community feel accepted.

“Please consider the harm this would cause to an already vulnerable group of people,” said Dr. Maureen Connolly, a physician with the Henry Ford Health System who works with transgender youth.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association has remained firm in its stance against this proposed bill — calling it unnecessary.

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