Opinion: Bill attempts to legislate against fears that haven’t played out

By Aidan Key

My name is Aidan Key and I am a 1982 graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School. I am an avid fan of girls/women’s sports. In 1981, I joined two classmates in filing a Title IX lawsuit against the JDHS school district citing discriminatory practices toward the girls’ high school basketball team. At the time, the boys’ team received significantly greater funding for equipment, uniforms, and travel. The district settled out of court and agreed to provide equal funding in accordance with the mandate of Title IX. I am very proud of that accomplishment and have taken that sense of justice forward with me in life ever since. It serves as my impetus for addressing SB 140 that is currently before the Alaska State Legislature.

Today, there are concerns regarding how the inclusion of K-12 trans athletes will impact sports, especially for female athletes. Yet the feared impact — taking away opportunities from other female athletes — has not come to fruition.

I’ve had a significant inside view of this issue the past 15 years. I worked with the Washington State Activities Association to consider trans athlete participation in K-12 athletics. The same fears expressed today are ones we examined so long ago. As we worked to create what ultimately became the nation’s first gender inclusion policy, we explored those fears in depth. We determined that the most equitable approach would be to allow these athletes to participate in the manner that aligned with their gender identity. WIAA also built in an assessment process should any challenging situation arise.

Today, WIAA has 15 years of policy implementation success. This fact-based, experience-driven reality has served to counter the fear-driven imaginings offered up as reasons for exclusion. In 15 years’ time, there has been only one situation that resulted in utilizing that evaluation process. A competing school challenged the right of a trans athlete’s eligibility to compete in track. Her teammates and coach spoke on behalf. She was a valued and loved member of the team. The WIAA reviewed the case and determined that she was eligible. When this young trans woman spoke about her experience, she said she did pretty well and was ranked 37th in state — 37th. That is hardly a decimation of her competitors.

Some believe that trans girls are a threat to girls’ teams. Will they dominate, robbing other girls of athletic opportunities? One track athlete in Conn thought so. She took legal action stating that there was no way she could compete against a young trans woman. Just days after filing suit, this same athlete upped her game to beat her trans competitor and win the state championship.

Title IX protects all female athletes, trans athletes included. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in (6-3 decision) regarding the case Bostock v. Clayton County to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The application of Title IX, the Department of Justice clarified, “[a]ll persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

After 15 years of successful implementation, WIAA decided to review the original policy. After a few minor revisions, the state’s athletic directors unanimously approved these revisions. Washington is a politically diverse state so the unanimous nature of this approval is even more compelling.

Last year, I teamed up with WIAA to craft a Gender Diverse Youth Sport Inclusivity Toolkit. We wanted to share our experience with other communities that do not have the benefit of actual implementation. This toolkit has been very well received and has the endorsement of every professional team in Seattle, including the Seahawks, Mariners, Kraken and Sounders.

Yes, this is a newer frontier. Just as many fought against the racial integration of our nation’s schools decades ago, so too do people today fear what they do not understand. The solution is not to deny rights of inclusion and participation. The solution is to deepen our understanding. SB 140 attempts to legislate against fears that simply do not play out. I encourage the Alaska State Legislature, and our community at-large, to let these students play!

• Aidan Key is the founder of Gender Diversity and Trans Families and author of “Trans Children in Today’s Schools” (Oxford University Press, expected publication December 2022). Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *