On Tuesday, July 13, over 300 people from the Lancaster community gathered outside Hempfield High School to support transgender students desiring to participate in high school athletics. The school board was meeting to hear from district residents and presumably decide the issue. Currently, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association relegates the decision regarding transgender athlete participation to local high school principals.
After hearing from 80 speakers the Board ultimately decided to hire a law firm to assist in establishing a school district policy on the matter. The Independence Law Center, which “works to preserve religious liberty, promote marriage and the family, and protect human life,” was nominated and approved. This is a conservative Christian group hired with tax dollars without due process of bidding. It seemed evident to those in attendance that this motion to hire this particular religious law firm to establish policy was pre-planned. A conservative religious group should not be making policy for a public high school. The school board, as a publicly elected entity should make decisions based on facts and best practice, not religious based beliefs which endanger the lives and exclude others who don’t share their faith.
Hempfield parent Jamie Beth Cohen, who has been involved in school and college sports her entire life, wrote to the board to urge them not to ban trans athletes from competing:
The suicide statistics for LGBTQIA+ students are chilling, and make no mistake, bans like the one Hempfield may be considering contribute to the alienation of students that in turn can contribute to suicidal ideation and action. I urge you to follow the facts and the science.
I say this with respect for all athletes at all levels of play: Sports are important AND the lives of our most vulnerable students are more important. Make no mistake, this is a life and death matter. And I can’t sit back and watch as trans athletes are excluded from the life-giving and life-affirming benefits of playing sports with their peers.
There are no pre-determined criteria for the way women’s bodies must be — even cisgender people can have hormone levels outside the range considered typical for their assigned sex, or could be intersex. The reality of these discriminatory bans has no basis in science and serves only to invite gender policing which could subject any woman to invasive tests or questions about personal medical information. They exist only to exclude trans people, and reinforce the idea that trans individuals are to be shunned in society.
Coach and sports policy expert Helen Caroll noted in a 2020 declaration, “For the past nine years, transgender athletes have been able to compete on teams at NCAA member collegiates and universities consistent with their gender identity like all other student-athletes with no disruption to women’s collegiate sports.”
Representatives from Lancaster Stands Up, The ACLU, YWCA, and Lancaster LGBTQ+ Coalition are continuing to work together to ensure that trans students are heard and supported, and that uninformed, phobic, and discriminatory policies will be challenged.
Please join us virtually on Sunday, July 18th at 8pm, as we process the multitude of emotions, events, and harm done this week as we fight for the humanity of our transgender/non-binary community members. This will be a private space to share thoughts and feelings, as well as resources for our continued work towards collective liberation. Pre-registration is required. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.