Transgender teens in Minnesota have won the right to play on whichever high school sports team they identify with on a gender basis.
The new rule goes into effect in public schools in the state for the 2015-2016 school year, after Thursday's clear vote by the Minnesota State High School League.
The discussion over the issue continued for months, as concerned were raised over the unfair advantage that male students who identify themselves as female would have while playing on a girl's sports team compared to their female peers.
Every person on the 19-member board voted for the controversial measure, with the exception of one member who abstained, in the midst of a crowd carrying signs both for and against the policy.
The policy, which only affects public schools, will not change the rules at religious private schools. In addition, any transgender teen wishing to participate must hand in written statements from parents, teachers, and friends, as well as from a health care provider, in order to be eligible to play for the gender-specific team of their choosing. While the statements must make the students' chosen gender known, students are not required to hand in proof of any sex-change surgery or hormone therapy.
While schools must follow nondiscrimination laws according to federal law, and 15 states already have K-12 sports teams who have clearly outlined rules allowing for transgender students to choose which sports teams they would like to participate on, the Minnesota case created quite a display as the Minnesota Child Protection League created multiple advertisements through local media.
Critics of the policy were placing full-page ads in local newspapers, suggesting parents protest the concept that their daughters could share a locker room with a transgender student, or that she could possibly lose "her position on an all-girl team to a male."
"I think it's unfair that you're giving boys opportunities to self proclaim themselves as girls and potentially take away our scholarships," testified an unnamed 10th grade volleyball player on Thursday night. "It's hard to for girls to build muscles get up to the point where boys are just to compete against other girls."
However, the NCAA says this view is misguided. In fact, transgender students typically match the physical traits of their transitioned gender.
Ilona Turner, the legal director at the California-based Transgender Law Center, said that the group should approve the policy, as athletic boards across the state are "in the business of adopting policies" that are fair and inclusive.
"It's really hard for kids who love sports and just want to play alongside their peers â¦ to be forced to participate on a team that doesn't match who they are," Turner told the Daily News.
Only a few days earlier, the US Department of Education had made clear federal protections that require gender-specific schools and classrooms to allow transgender students to choose which gendered class they most identify with.