Anti-transgender ad causes outrage

An ad in the Star Tribune upset many with its message alerting readers about a policy regarding transgender athletes in Minnesota high schools.


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The full page ad, paid for by the Child Protection League of Minnesota, offended many and resulted in the MNHSL postponing the transgender athlete vote until this December.

Jackie Bussjaeger, Editor-in-Chief

The Star Tribune ran a controversial advertisement in the Sept. 28 Sunday edition that asked the parents of high-school students to reject the proposed changes to the Minnesota State High School League’s policy on transgender athletes. The ad read: “A male wants to shower next to your 14-year-old daughter. Are YOU ok with that?” It was paid for by the Minnesota Child Protection League, whose mission is to “protect all children from exploitation, indoctrination and violence,” according to their website,

The policy in question is a drafted proposal that would allow transgender and intersex student athletes to participate in school sports teams according to their own gender identity when it differs from the gender listed on official documents such as registration records and birth certificates. The schools would be required to certify that students participating in athletics as a result of this policy would be required to have medical documentation that an individual has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, and that the individual is receiving hormone therapy and clinical treatment.

The ad offended numerous Star Tribune readers, many of whom Tweeted their disappointment with the newspaper, and threatened to cancel their subscriptions. Hamline alum Lyra Schneider (‘14) wrote a letter to editor that was published in the Star Tribune during the same week, rebuking the paper for embracing this message. Schneider, who is a longtime reader of the Star Tribune and who identifies as transgender, felt extremely connected to this issue.

“I know for a fact that there are people who haven’t really made up their minds about issues like this, and I wanted to make sure that readers of the paper got the chance to see the other side of the story so that they could be working with more facts and less fear while making their decision,” Schneider wrote in an email interview.

With the help of this ad, which garnered much attention, the Minnesota Child Protection League was successful in postponing the decision to enact the transgender athlete policy until December 2014. The foremost concerns from the organization are that the policy would endanger female athletes by exposing them to potential violation in the locker rooms, and to injury on the field by playing against biologically male athletes. The Child Protection League also pointed out that since biological males are on average larger and stronger than females, having a male athlete on a female team would be an unfair advantage and would deny athletic opportunities to other eligible females interested in joining the team.

Chandler Daily (‘16) is a board member of Hamline’s LGBTQIA organization Spectrum, and also identifies as transgender. Daily saw the ad in the Star Tribune the day it was published, saw it as an instance of misinformed hate speech, and shared their response in an email interview.

“My initial reaction was to be horrified by the violent fear mongering used in the headline,” Daily wrote. “The fact is that transgender girls are the young women most at risk for bullying, abuse, and murder, not the cisgender girl next to her. Transgender women have a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered by a cisgender person. Transgender people have a 50% chance of being sexually assaulted. What’s more, the idea that a transgender woman is a sexual predator just by existing is very frequently used as a justification for violent hate crimes against them. The ad is not just incorrect and offensive, it is actually perpetuating violence.”

Daily pointed out numerous problematic assumptions in the ad’s message.

“Once it’s spelled out, it is clear how ridiculous and unlikely this scheme is,” Daily wrote. “It’s based on the transphobic idea that transgender girls are really perverted boys who choose that identity to have access to other young girls. It’s also clearly sexist that the way that these people spread fear of minority identities is asking people to protect their innocent, pure daughters and that they seem to think that anyone with XY chromosomes on a girls’ sports team would be unfairly stronger than any athlete with XX chromosomes.”

According to both Daily and Schneider, transgender students are statistically more likely than cisgender students to be the ones who are harassed and violated in these situations. “Cisgender” typically refers to individuals whose biological sex matches their gender identity.

“It is critical that transgender students be supported in their schools when they may not be supported at home, at church, and in the world at large,” Daily wrote.

Schneider agreed, adding that she knows from personal experience how distressing it can be to feel unaccepted in school.

“Trans kids are still kids,” she wrote. “Kids need access to sports and extracurriculars. And having to play for a team that doesn’t match your gender, and where everyone assumes the wrong thing about your gender, is absolutely devastating–I ought to know, I lived that experience myself enough times in high school, in marching band and color guard. The total weight of it was nearly unbearable and it led me to dark places we should never, ever wish on anyone, especially not our kids. So really this issue is important because it is a direct push in the effort to end violence against youth–to reduce self harm and self destruction and suicide attempts by making the world itself a better place to be.”

Schneider provided some advice to students at Hamline who are interested in the issue. She encouraged them to contact Spectrum and work together to fight against the misperceptions that many people have about transgendered and genderfluid individuals.

The most important thing to know is that you can make a difference,” Schneider wrote.  “You can keep writing editorials to keep influencing readers–even if you aren’t trans, you can still help to allay fears. You can find your own way to approach the issue, your own way to answer the paranoia and the hate (with love, usually works best). You can also write letters to the members of the MNSHSL board of directors. Write to whoever you feel you may have a connection with, or just write all of them, and tell them how badly you need them to approve the policy, and for it to include protections for trans students that specifically allow them to use the bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers of their actual gender.”

The Minnesota Child Protection League believes that it is possible to find a solution to this problem, but that the MNSHSL proposal is not the way to do it. Their website reads: “CPLAction firmly believes all students should be allowed to participate in extracurricular athletic programs. They should be able to do so in a way that does not jeopardize anyone’s personal privacy rights, safety, or well-being, or in a way that jeopardizes the values and institutional integrity of MSHSL member schools.” The MNSHSL board will meet again to discuss the transgender athlete policy on Dec. 4.