Tag Archives: transgender

Integrating Sports


Organized sports have been in the news an awful lot lately, and not in a bowl/pennant/series kind of way. It’s been all about sex. Sexual orientation, sexual (mis)behavior, and gender orientation in team sports has been popping up like kernels in a Jiffy Pop. The accumulated effect of these pops is to force us to look at sports with fresh eyes. Why are teams gender-specific? Well, because (we sputter), because…men are biologically larger. Sometimes they are, and that is an ancient argument that we used to keep women out of the police force, the firehouse and the military.

If a standard of physical skill and strength is set for a team, why does it matter the gender of the player? Organized sports have never been so popular amongst children. Free-range play for every age of child has been replaced by team sports. During the K-12 years, boys and girls are often the same size, and in some cases the girls are bigger. There are unisex teams for children, but usually they only lasts until middle school. Most sports do not legally allow full body tackles. So if a girl/woman has an equal skill to that of a boy/man what is the issue exactly? Why are we hanging onto this gender specific paradigm? We let go of most gender specific curriculum years ago (show of hands for those who remember being tracked into sewing/cooking or mechanical drawing/shop.) The “Boys” and “Girls” engravings on old school doors while quaint are ignored. Title IX opened up an entire world of athletics to girls. And that was good. But it has been almost two generations since the initiation of that progress. Team sports have become as routine an endeavor for girls as ballet once was. So why aren’t boys and girls playing on the same team? Well, (ahem) what of the locker rooms, you ask?

Why in the world do we design locker rooms in which there is no privacy, particularly in schools? Is there ever a life stage more rife with body image issues?! Why do we subject any person to such a thing? Heterosexual, homosexual, pansexual, transgender; everyone deserves a little privacy. That aside, the short answer to the locker room question is; build locker rooms with private showers equipped with a small vestibules (with hooks and shelves.) Lockers can be in a communal setting and dressing/undressing can be done privately.

Any organization, which by definition is for only one segment of the population, cultivates a potentially unhealthy camaraderie. The less diverse a group the more myopic their orientation. A group can easily influence even the most open-minded individual, particularly when they’re coached that there is no “I” in team. It is in closed societies that we often find misdeeds towards others. Opening up the teams to any person with the skills/talents to play the sport will create a better environment for all.

As more young people openly identify as transgender and/or L(esbian),G(ay),B(isexual) we will be faced with privacy and equity issues. And this is good. When we change the way school athletics is handled we will (eventually) see the effect on professional sports. It took years of Title IX to get us to the WNBA, and we certainly have a ways to go in other sports. But it is progress, and that is good.

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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Education


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Everybody’s Fancy*


Everyone is entitled to be the person they wish to be; adults, teens, children; everyone. As long as you are not hurting anyone, you can live your life exactly as you see fit. Society does expect some level of conformity of course, mostly to avoid utter chaos. We can stomp our feet or roll our eyes at the notion of conformity, but we look rather adolescent doing so. The world is large and diverse; there are a lot of us living on this relatively small planet. We make certain accommodations to ensure a modicum of tranquility. Nobody enjoys waiting on line but as a society we’ve decided it’s efficient. We’d probably prefer if the bus took us directly to our front door, but that’s not how a public bus works.

Public education is just that; public. No one person’s rights are more important than that of anyone else. Yet recently there was a report of a public school being pressured to behave otherwise. A transgendered elementary school student’s parents wanted her to use the girls’ bathroom. This arrangement worked until it didn’t. As the student got older there were parents (and perhaps girl students) who grew uncomfortable. A gender neutral bathroom was provided by the school, but the parents found this option ostracizing. Teachers and administrators had always used the (adopted) female pronouns for the student, which would indicate efforts of inclusion.

On the surface one might think; “They’re kids! Let them use whatever bathroom they choose.” But there’s a reason that bathrooms are divided by gender. Sometime around age 5 (otherwise known as; school-age) children become aware of gender differences. If we asked the parents of the transgender student they would probably recall their child expressing frustration at having boy parts (versus girl parts) at around age 5. Children develop a (healthy) curiosity about gender (both physical and social) at this age. Role playing games start around this age (ex. house, office, etc.) They often explore their own and other’s bodies. There’s nothing perverse about the curiosity. But like all behavior in children, it needs to be monitored. Children have much of the same physical anatomy they will in adulthood, but that doesn’t mean they should be engaged in adult behavior. They also have the physical ability to smoke and tie one on. But even the most precocious child is not equipped for adult situations.

It is easy to think of a child (at any age) feeling coerced and/or frightened by situations. It is also easy to imagine a bathroom frequented by children of all grades and unmonitored by adults. All kinds of things happen unbeknownst to adults in a school bathroom. This in no way is to suggest that a transgendered student is any kind of aggressor. Far from it. But why should a girl child be exposed to a biological boy child in the most private of ways? What if that girl child is significantly younger than the transgendered child? What if the girl child has been victimized at home? In other words; how are the rights of one student more valid than that of another?

The fact is that they are not. No one person is entitled to anymore than anyone else. Equal opportunity means just that; equal. Sticking to the bathroom motif; anyone who has stood on line for a public restroom because the people in the front of the line avoid the handicapped accessible stall, know this to be true. The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted so that people had equal opportunity, not so that there was a private unoccupied bathroom stall available at all times. Everybody’s fancy, everybody’s fine and everyone is equal. We need to accept (not tolerate) all people. We need to allow for all points of view. But we also all need to live together, and sometimes that means not getting every last thing one wants. Sometimes we need to consider how others are impacted by our behavior. Sometimes we need to use the private¬†bathroom.

*Some are fancy on the outside.
Some are fancy on the inside.
Everybody’s fancy.
Everybody’s fine.
Your body’s fancy and so is mine.

Boys are boys from the beginning.
Girls are girls right from the start.
Everybody’s fancy.
Everybody’s fine.
Your body’s fancy and so is mine.

Girls grow up to be the mommies.
Boys grow up be the daddies.
Everybody’s fancy.
Everybody’s fine.
Your body’s fancy and so is mine.

I think you’re a special person
And I like your ins and outsides.
Everybody’s fancy.
Everybody’s fine.
Your body’s fancy and so is mine.

Fred M. Rogers (1967)


Posted by on March 19, 2013 in Childhood, Cultural Critique, Well-Being


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