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Journal Times editorial: Legislature attacks a handful of teenagers
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Journal Times editorial: Legislature attacks a handful of teenagers

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Another bill to nowhere.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos., R-Rochester, said last week he would push ahead with a bill to ban transgender athletes from competing in women’s or girls’ sports in Wisconsin.

Vos knows that the legislation is going nowhere — Gov. Tony Evers has already said he would veto it.

But it’s part of a cookie-cutter package of legislation that Republicans are mounting in more than a dozen states around the country under the guise that they are protecting female-born student athletes from being disadvantaged by having to compete against student athletes who are born male but who are undergoing treatment to transition to female.

That drive has been successful in some states — including Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, South Dakota, Idaho and, most recently Alabama.

To look at it, you would think that all of a sudden there has been a surge of boys and young men signing up for testosterone suppression therapy or even gender reassignment procedures just so they can win a letter on a girls’ team.

That ain’t happening.

And, frankly, we don’t see it happening anytime soon — if ever.

What we see here is Republicans in state after state churning out the same legislation not to protect young women athletes, but to stir up their base and rile its fears over an issue that has been a non-issue. Just for a few votes.

Even more distasteful, they are doing it by targeting a very small minority — transgender males in high school — who have very little political clout or sympathy for the struggles they are going through.

For years, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has set and enforced policies over student participation in high school athletics for school districts around the state.

Six years ago, the WIAA adopted a policy on transgender participation in high school sports. Under that policy, which commits to ensuring that transgender students have opportunities to participate in WIAA-sponsored athletics, students who are born male but self-identify as being female (MTF), have to have a calendar year of medically documented testosterone suppression therapy. They must also provide documentation to their school from a physician or psychologist that affirms their consistent gender identification and expression; provide medical documentation of any hormonal therapy, sexual reassignment surgery or counseling; and provide documentation from friends, family, teachers and others that demonstrate the student’s consistent gender identification and expression. The school then makes a decision.

Then, of course, the student must make the team through tryouts. That’s quite a gamut.

Rep. Vos and state Republicans would supplant that involved procedure with a simpler one: No way.

So how many male-to-female student athletes would this impact?

WIAA Deputy Director Wade Labecki says that since the WIAA implemented its transgender participation policy, he believes the association has had four inquiries about MTF in the past six years. Three, he said, involved swimmers and one from another sport. Labecki said he did not know if any of those instances resulted in a MTF transgender student athlete making a high school team or participating in a WIAA sanctioned event.

The WIAA oversees policies for roughly 80,000 to 85,000 student athletes during the course of a year. About 41 percent involve participants in girls’ or women’s sports — or about 32,800 a year.

Over the course of six years that would total 196,800 female participants.

Those possible four MTF transgender athletes over that span would then represent an infinitesimal number.

Small wonder then, that Labecki says the issue of transgender student athletes “has not been brought to us as a concern” by school districts across the state.

Do we really need Vos and his Republican colleagues to bring the full weight of the Legislature to attack a handful of teenage transgender athletes and deny them the opportunity to participate in high school sports? Have we no shame?

If that situation changes over time and this becomes a pressing issue — and not just a bully pulpit for Republicans to rile up their conservative base by attacking a very small minority — then the Legislature can come back and look at this.

Until then, it should just let the WIAA do its job and let it be.

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